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Raices receives Lew Collection

By Jose B. Rivera

Preserving the Memory of a Renaissance Man
Raices Latin Music Collection Receives Ralph Lew Collection
By Nina Olsen

New York, New York—Renaissance man Ralph Lew, will long be remembered for his outrageous sense of humor and love of people as well as for his long career as a Latin dance instructor, producer of dance shows, choreographer, record producer, writer, emcee, and producer of those famous Salsa weekends in the Catskills. All these contributions will be documented for future generations as a result of a gift to Raices from Ralph’s dance partner and wife of thirty-one years, Lucille Lew. The gift includes photographs, historical documents and records, dance costumes, and plaques received in recognition of his talent and contributions to dance.

Born in Cuba of Jewish heritage, Ralph, or rather Rafael Levd, as he was named, began dancing as a young man, with the sounds of clave luring him onto the nightclub dance floors much to his mother’s disapproval. He immigrated to New York in the late 1940’s and later joined the army in 1951 where he coordinated dance shows while stationed in Germany. Upon his return to the United States he taught dance lessons and performed at Catskill resorts such as the Pines and Grossingers. In l957 he began teaching for the famed dance team of Tony and Lucille and later opened his own dance studio. It is his development of dance shows, with elaborate costumes, elegant sets and intricately choreographed routines that elevated Ralph from “dancer” to show man extraordinare. His great “ear” led him to produce records with such musical luminaries as Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Machito, Miguelito Valdes and others. Beginning in l984, Ralph and his lovely Lucille established his famous Salsa in the Catskills weekends.

The Raices Latin Music Collection is a program of the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts, a division of Boys & Girls Harbor, Inc. Established by Ramon Rodriguez, Louis Bauzo and Joe Conzo, Raices is an early stage museum and serves as the nucleus for the first museum for Latin music. Raices is an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and an Official Project of Save Americas Treasures.  Located in East Harlem, a primary birthplace of the music, Raices is engaged in four distinct areas of programming: preservation and expansion of its Collection, public education and outreach, and capacity building for access by national audiences.

THE HARBOR CONSERVATORY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS is a division of BOYS & GIRLS HARBOR, INC., and is now celebrating 35 years as a pre-professional performing arts institution offering high caliber, low-cost training in music, dance and theater to over 1,300 students annually. For more information regarding performing arts classes, you may call 212/427-2244 ext. 573 or visit our website at http://www.harborconservatory.org


Boys & Girls Harbor was established in l937, by Anthony Duke, and is recognized as a leader in youth development in New York City. The Harbor focuses on the intellectual, physical and emotional development of youngsters ranging in age from six months to twenty-one years through education, cultural awareness and social services.

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