Rita Moreno. The Heart Truth/Wikimedia Commons

A Documentary on Rita Moreno's Life Is in the Works—with Lin-Manuel Miranda as an Exec Producer

A documentary about famed performer Rita Moreno is in the works for PBS' American Masters series, and with Lin-Manuel Miranda on board as an executive producer, we're doubly excited. Slated for a 2020 release, Rita Moreno: The Girl Who Decided to Go for It will delve into the life of the Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer.

At 87, she's showing no signs of slowing down—for starters, her Netflix show, "One Day at a Time," was renewed by Pop TV earlier this summer. Moreno's response? To retweet this post of her—doing what else but—dancing.


While Moreno is best known for her role as Anita in the 1961 film version of West Side Story, her career has spanned television, film and Broadway alike. In celebration of the upcoming doc, we're sharing seven reasons she inspires us—and we hope they 'll be expanded on in The Girl Who Decided to Go for It.

1. She launched her career when she was only 11.

Moreno was a go-getter right from the start. When she was 11, she worked as a voiceover artist for Spanish versions of American movies. Then, at 13, she debuted on Broadway in a play called Skydrift.

2. After Moreno won an Oscar for Anita, she continued to be faced with stereotypical casting as a Hispanic woman, but she persevered—and even called it out. 

Moreno was the first Hispanic woman to win an Academy Award. But even after she took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in West Side Story, she faced difficulties in her career. In 2008, she reflected on the experience, telling the Miami Herald:

"What is interesting to me is having the vision so early and yet feeling so inferior to everybody else in the business for years and years because I believed I had to be subservient to anybody who wasn't Latino. Before West Side Story I was always offered the stereotypical Latina roles. The Conchitas and Lolitas in westerns. I was always barefoot. It was humiliating, embarrassing stuff. But I did it because there was nothing else. After West Side Story, it was pretty much the same thing. A lot of gang stories."

3. She's one of only two people to EGOT and complete the Triple Crown of Acting. 

Moreno, along with Helen Hayes, is one of only two people ever to rack up the awards necessary for both an EGOT—that is, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony—and what's known as the Triple Crown of Acting (an Ocsar, Emmy and Tony each in competitive acting categories). That doesn't even include the other major awards she's snagged, such as the Peabody Career Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Kennedy Center Honor.

4. Her first Emmy was for an appearance on "The Muppet Show."

A guest spot during a Season 1 episode of "The Muppet Show" in 1976 proved that Moreno could hold her own with the likes of Kermit, Animal and the gang. In the above dance scene, she partners a life-sized puppet, though she's most definitely not letting him lead her. Her humorous appearance earned her an Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.

5. You may recognize her voice from a famous 1990s cartoon.

Moreno voiced the character of Carmen Sandiego in the TV series "Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?" from 1994–99. And, earlier this year, she returned to the franchise, voicing Cookie Booker in Netflix's "Carmen Sandiego" reboot.

6. She can rock the same dress 56 years later.

The award for Best Outfit Repeater of All Time easily goes to Moreno. For the 2018 Oscars, she rewore her gown from the 1962 awards. Back then, she was accepting her Oscar for West Side Story. Who wore it better: 1962 or 2018 Rita? The jury is still out.

7. She's currently filming a role in Steven Spielberg's upcoming West Side Story remake.

While Moreno is passing on her iconic Anita role to the inimitable Ariana DeBose, Moreno won't be absent from 2020's remake. She quipped on Instagram that "an 87 year old 'Anita' just won't do." Instead, she's been cast as Valentina, a corner store owner (originally written as Doc) whose role has been expanded. We can't wait to see Moreno back on the silver screen.

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Brandt in Giselle. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Skylar Brandt's Taste in Music Is as Delightful as Her Dancing

American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt's dancing is clean, precise and streamlined. It's surprising, then, to learn that her taste in music is "all over the place," she says. (Even more surprising is that Brandt, who has an Instagram following of over 80k, is "in the dark ages" when it comes to her music, and was buying individual songs on iTunes up until a year ago, when her family intervened with an Apple Music plan.)

Though what she's listening to at any given time can vary dramatically, the through-line for Brandt is nostalgia: songs that take her back, whether to childhood, a favorite movie or a piece she's recently performed. Brandt told us about her eclectic taste, and made us a playlist that will keep you guessing:

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Courtesy The Joyce

Dance Magazine Chairman's Award Honoree: Linda Shelton

In an industry that has been clamoring for more female leadership, Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater Foundation since 1993, has been setting an example for decades. As a former general manager of The Joffrey Ballet, U.S. tour manager for the Bolshoi Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts panelist, Dance/NYC board member and Benois de la Danse judge, as well as a current Dance/USA board member, Shelton has served as a global leader in dance. In her tenure at The Joyce, she has not only increased the venue's commissioned programming, but also started presenting beyond The Joyce's walls in locations such as Lincoln Center.

What brought you to The Joyce?

That was many years ago, but it's still the same today: It's a belief in and passion for the mission of the theater, which is to support dance in all of its forms and varieties—every kind of dance that you could imagine.

Diversity is so important in dance leadership today. How do you approach this at The Joyce?

Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

Is drawing in new audiences and maintaining longtime supporters ever in conflict?

Of course. I call it the blessing and the curse of our mission. We do present more experimental companies that may attract a younger audience. But it's very tricky. You're not going to tell your long-term audience, "Don't come and see this because you're not going to like the music." We've had people walk out of the theater before, but it's a response. It's important to spark those conversations.

What experimenting have you done?

We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

Do you have advice for other dance presenters?

Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

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