Chita Rivera: A Life in Photos

The dancer Chita Rivera, who “dazzled audiences for nearly seven decades as a Puerto Rican lodestar of the American musical theater,” has died at 91. Her influence can be seen in many Broadway productions over the years, including “West Side Story” (1957), “Bye Bye Birdie” (1960), “Chicago” (1975) and “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1993).

As Anita in “West Side Story,” she took “a part equivalent to the nurse in the Shakespeare play,” Brooks Atkinson wrote in his review for The New York Times.

She worked with the choreographers Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins, the composer Leonard Bernstein, the songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, and the playwright Terrence McNally, among others.

Born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 23, 1933, she was a quick study. After auditioning, she won a scholarship to George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in Manhattan, and lived with family in the Bronx. She wrote in her autobiography, “Chita: A Memoir,” that she dealt with the overwhelmingly white spaces she found herself in by becoming a class clown. Her feelings of being an outsider lessened on Broadway but persisted.

Her ballet training stayed with her. “Her finesse comes in the gracious way she shows every angle of her body, the attention to épaulement — the carriage of the arms and shoulders — all the while talking up space,” Gia Kourlas writes. “Dancing big and with intention.”

Here are a selection of images from her remarkable life onstage.

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