Chita Rivera, the Broadway star whose career spanned seven decades and opened the door for Latina artists, has died aged 91.
A dynamic singer and dancer, Rivera was nominated for 10 Tony awards – winning twice – and bounced back from a near-fatal car accident.
She died in New York after a brief illness, her daughter Lisa Mordente said on Tuesday.
Playwright Paul Rudnick said she was “a true Broadway legend”.
Rivera first hit the big time in 1957 as Anita in the original production of West Side Story – and more than half a century later, she was still dancing on Broadway in 2015’s The Visit.
She won Tonys for 1984’s The Rink and Kiss Of The Spider Woman in 1993, and was nominated as recently as 2014 for The Visit.
In 2018, as she won a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, and said she “wouldn’t trade my life in the theatre for anything, because theatre is life”.
In 2009, Rivera was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour the US can give a civilian.
Rivera put her hand over her heart and shook her head in wonderment as Barack Obama presented the medal.
Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth called her a “kick butt woman… all the rest of us just wanna be you”.
Rivera rose from chorus girl to star, working with many of Broadway’s greatest talents, including Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Bob Fosse.
In 1988, she came back from a car accident that crushed her right leg and needed months of physical therapy to recover her dancing skills.
She said at the time: “It never entered my mind that I wouldn’t dance again. Never. I can’t explain to you why. It’s hard work getting back but that’s what I’m doing.”
In 1975, she starred as Velma Kelly in the original Broadway production of Chicago and had a small role in the 2002 film version.
Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero was born in Washington in January 1933.
She took dance classes and then entered the prestigious School of American Ballet in New York.
Her first theatre gig, at age 17, was in the touring company of Call Me Madam, and won parts in the chorus line in such shows as Guys and Dolls and Can-Can, as her career began to take off.