Bold, Energetic, Unstoppable
Dancer, actress, singer, author, and producer Lillian Colon’s passion, talent, and drive have propelled her from The Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Home for Children in the Bronx to stages around the world, including the Great Stage at Radio City Music Hall where she became the first Latina Rockette.
Today, her celebrated career includes performances on Broadway and TV, and in nightclubs, theater, and movies. She completed her memoirs; wrote and produced the award-winning, one-woman show, “Lilly;” and appears as a featured dancer in the movie version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash hit, In The Heights.
From the ages of 4 to 18, Lillian was a ward of New York State at The Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Home for Children. Her father brought her to the facility after her mother suffered a mental breakdown. Separated from her parents, siblings, and extended family, Lillian was raised by the Franciscan nuns who ran the orphanage. Married at 18, Lillian suffered unspeakable physical abuse and left her husband after one year.
The Early Years
Lillian began dance training at age 14 and graduated from the High School of Performing Arts. She began her professional career in a Lincoln Center production of West Side Story. Lillian performed in summer stock and Latin nightclubs before moving to Los Angeles to work with singer/actress Lainie Kazan. She caught the attention of director/choreographer Steve Merritt who cast her as a lead dancer on the 61st Annual Academy Awards. She toured Mexico with violinist Olga Breeskin, performing with the artist on TV, in nightclubs, and in the film, Nora La Rebelde. Returning to the U.S., Lillian became lead choreographer for the popular boy band, Menudo, working with a pre-teen Ricky Martin. In addition to Merritt, Lillian has worked with award-winning choreographers Joe Layton, Donald McKayle, Alan Johnson, and seven-time Tony winner Michael Bennett in the 10th Anniversary production of A Chorus Line. Other performances include the Broadway tour No, No, Nanette and a tour of Can-Can starring Chita Rivera with The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.
In the late 1980’s, Lillian auditioned with 400 other dancers for a permanent spot on the Rockette line. After several rounds, she was one of four dancers who made the final cut. Lillian made history that day, becoming the first Latina to join the celebrated dance troupe. For the next sixteen years she performed eye-high kicks in Radio City Entertainment original productions including the famed Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
Hitting the Heights
In the fall of 2018, Lillian answered an open call for dancers aged 18 to 65 for the movie version of In The Heights. She was the only dancer in the 60 plus category who was ultimately hired. Lillian demonstrated tremendous skill and energy, executing complex hip-hop, and salsa moves alongside dancers in their 20’s. The young performers went wild when they found out Lillian was the first Latina Rockette saying, “I want to be just like you. You opened doors for us.” During filming, her dancing was noted by show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and the film’s star Anthony Ramos. Working with choreographer Christopher Scott and director Jon M. Chu, Lillian dances throughout the film and is prominently featured in several key scenes, including “No Me Diga.”
Telling Her Story
Lillian shares her inspiring story of the “Puerto Rican Little Orphan Annie,” in her autobiographical, one-woman show, “Lilly,” as well as her memoir by the same name. Fans can experience the pain, joy, and triumph of a woman determined to use her timeless talent to bring joy and inspiration to people around the world.