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Amar Ramasar
Born 1981/1982 (age 41–42)
Occupation Ballet dancer
Elysia Dawn Fridkin
(m. 2011; div. 2016)
Current group New York City Ballet

Amar Ramasar (born 1981) is an American ballet dancer and former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet (NYCB). Ramasar joined the NYCB as an apprentice in 2000 and joined the corps de ballet in 2001. As of 2010, Ramasar remained the only person of color who was a principal in NYCB.

In 2018, Ramasar was fired from NYCB for sharing explicit pictures of female dancers without their knowledge or consent. In 2019, he made his debut at the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome. That same year, a union arbitrator ruled that, while suspension from NYCB was fitting, his firing was too severe a punishment. As a result, the arbitrator ordered Ramasar to be reinstated by the NYCB. In July 2021, the NYCB announced that Ramasar was retiring in May 2022.

Education and early career

Amar Ramasar was born in the Bronx, New York City. His father, who is of Indo-Trinidadian descent, is a former United States Marine who worked as a computer technician while Ramasar was growing up. His mother, who is Puerto Rican, worked as a registered nurse. Outgoing and talkative as a child, he says, "No one knew anything about ballet in my family."

When Ramasar was 10 years old, he impressed a music teacher in his public school with his creative talents. The teacher urged him to audition for the TADA! Youth Theater. Ramasar was one of two children selected from more than 300 who tried out. Because his parents worked full-time, Ramasar learned to take the New York City Subway from his home in the South Bronx to the studio on the Lower East Side, and rode public transit to get to the daily rehearsals.

Ramasar took his first dance lesson at the Henry Street Settlement House's Abrons Arts Center in 1993. His family was indifferent about his decision to dance. "My father didn't prevent me from doing it, but he didn't make it easy," he says. When Ramasar was 14 he auditioned for the School of American Ballet, a school which trains young dancers who wish to try out for the New York City Ballet. He was accepted in 1993, and received his first ballet lesson there.

His family had no money to support his dance education, and Ramasar relied exclusively on scholarships to pay his tuition. His first years at the School of American Ballet were difficult. Ramasar was years behind the other boys (some of whom were as young as six years old) in athleticism and technique. He later said he felt discouraged by how far behind he was: "I would look around and see all these boys who were turned-out and beautiful, and I was just a clumsy Bronx boy. It took a lot of willpower" to stay in school. Ramasar voiced his doubts to teacher Olga Kostritzky and told her he was going to drop ballet for acting. "You want to play a robber, be in movies," she told him. "You want to be a prince, stay in the ballet."

Peter Martins, then-director of both the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet, proved critical in helping Ramasar develop as a dancer, giving him 10 minutes of partnering tutoring after each class. Ramasar received high praise at the School of American Ballet year-end workshops, and studied at the American Ballet Theatre's Summer Program and The Rock School for Dance Education.

NYC Ballet

Ramasar joined the New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 2000, and joined the corps de ballet in 2001. Martins cast him in role of the Cavalier in The Nutcracker in 2001. Ramasar's father watched him dance for the first time in this role. "I think then he understood," Ramasar said. He became a soloist in March 2006, and was promoted to a principal in October 2009. Ramasar's promotion was noted by a critic as good thing, because "change at NYCB is itself a gift, for as younger dancers take over cherished roles, these wonderful ballets can look new all over again."

As of 2010, it was reported that Ramasar was the only person of color who is a principal in NYCB. He was quoted as saying:

I actually looked at my race as an advantage because there was no one who looked like me. In New York City Ballet especially, I felt my casting has always been great. The biggest one for me was Fancy Free because, if you think of the history of that ballet, it's not necessarily the case that in the 1940s an Indian guy was one of the sailors fighting for America. But they let me do that here, and I thought, "I’m breaking boundaries that people automatically put up for a stereotypical white ballet."

In January 2019, he made his debut at the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome in the ballet Carmen with the choreography by Jiří Bubeníček.

Other work

In 2000, Ramasar received the Mae L. Wien Award.

He was featured in a social studies trade textbook, Meet the Dancers, by Amy Nathan.

Ramasar appeared in NY Export: Opus Jazz, a 2010 film about that ballet.

Personal life

Ramasar began dating Elysia Dawn Fridkin (also known as Elysia Dawn) in 2009, and they married in October 2011. She was formerly a dancer with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, artistic director of the Columbia University Ballet Collaborative, and is currently a Program Associate for MetLiveArts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their marriage ended in divorce in 2016.

See also

  • List of New York City Ballet principal dancers
  • Copy of Lawsuit Against New York City Ballet
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