Chita Rivera, iconic Tony Award-winning dancer and singer, passes away at 91

Legendary dancer, singer and actress Chita Rivera died Tuesday at the age of 91. 

Rivera garnered 10 Tony nominations, winning twice. Her body of work included a long Broadway career that forged a path for Latina artists, even after suffering a near-fatal car crash. 

Her daughter, Lisa Mordente, announced her mother's death, saying she died in New York after a brief illness but didn't elaborate. 

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Rivera first gained wide notice in 1957 as Anita in the original production of "West Side Story" and was still dancing on Broadway with her trademark energy a half-century later in 2015’s "The Visit."


Scene from the Broadway musical "West Side Story," L-R: Lynn Ross, unnamed actress, Chita Rivera, and Carmen Guitterez. Undated photo. (Photo by �� John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

"I wouldn't know what to do if I wasn't moving or telling a story to you or singing a song," she told The Associated Press then. "That's the spirit of my life, and I'm really so lucky to be able to do what I love, even at this time in my life."

In August 2009, Rivera was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the U.S. can give a civilian. Rivera put her hand over her heart and shook her head in wonderment as President Barack Obama presented the medal. In 2013, she was the marshal at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.

Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero was born Jan. 23, 1933, in Washington, D.C. Her Puerto Rican father, Pedro del Rivero, was a musician who played in the United States Navy Band, who died when she was 7. Her mother was Scottish and Italian descent.

She took dance classes and then entered the prestigious School of American Ballet in New York. Her first theater gig, at age 17, was in the touring company of "Call Me Madam." That led to chorus stints in such shows as "Guys and Dolls" and "Can-Can."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.