EDWARD VILLELLA TAPES VIDEO SERIES FOR THE GEORGE BALANCHINE FOUNDATION
NEW YORK CITY - Edward Villella, founding artistic director of Miami City Ballet and a leading dancer with the New York City Ballet from the late 1950s to the late 1970s, has been captured by the Foundation's cameras as he analyzed the choreography for the pas de deux couple in "Rubies" (from Jewels) and the effervescent Tarantella. Taping took place at the studios of Miami City Ballet in Miami Beach, Florida, on April 14 and 15, 2008.
Both works feature virtuoso roles created by George Balanchine to showcase Villella's dynamic technique and expansive stage personality. In each case his partner was the fleet-footed ballerina Patricia McBride. For the videotaping Villella was assisted by Miami principal dancers Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg and Renato Penteado in "Rubies" and principal soloist Alex Wong and corps de ballet member Sara Esty in Tarantella. He was interviewed by Nancy Reynolds, the foundation's director of research.
Of Villella's performance in "Rubies" (1967) New York Times critic Clive Barnes wrote, "[He] swoops and punches his way around the stage with an easy-going humor and tremendous virtuosity." In Tarantella, as described by P.W. Manchester (Christian Science Monitor, 1964), "the stage is never empty; when one dancer rushes off, the other rushes on. Separately or together, the pace never slackens. [The ballet] is difficult to a degree, but exhilarating and brilliant." Excerpts of Villella's performance in both ballets can be seen in the film Man Who Dances.
Nancy Reynolds remarked, "With his exuberance and high-flying bravura, Edward Villella made an important breakthrough for the image of the male dancer in America. Judging by the number of roles he created for him, Balanchine clearly valued him highly. These tapes will be a major addition to The George Balanchine Foundation's Video Archives."
During EDWARD VILLELLA'S stellar career as a principal dancer with New York City Ballet both Balanchine and Jerome Robbins choreographed roles for him-Robbins in Dances at a Gathering and Watermill, Balanchine in a bevy of ballets including "Rubies" from Jewels, Tarantella, Harlequinade, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Oberon), Symphony in Three Movements, and Bugaku. In addition he danced most of the leading roles in the rest of the repertory-those in Agon, Symphony in C, Western Symphony, Stars and Stripes, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Afternoon of a Faun, among others. Probably Villella's most famous role was the title part in Balanchine's Prodigal Son (choreographed in 1929).
In a busy parallel freelance career, Villella performed all over the United States, on television, in the musical theater, and at the White House, appearing at the Kennedy Inaugural and entertaining presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.
After his retirement from the stage, in 1985 he accepted the position of founding artistic director of Miami City Ballet and achieved worldwide acclaim for the company within a decade. In 1997 President Clinton presented Villella with the National Medal of Arts and in the same year he was named a Kennedy Center honoree. Under his direction, Miami City Ballet continues to flourish.
Villella's autobiography, Prodigal Son: Dancing for Balanchine in a World of Pain and Magic (written with Larry Kaplan), was published in 1992 and reissued in 1998.
SARA ESTY (Tarantella) danced with the Maine State Ballet and joined Miami City Ballet as a student apprentice in 2005. She was promoted to corps member in 2007.
JENNIFER CARLYNN KRONENBERG ("Rubies") joined Miami City Ballet as a company apprentice in 1994 and was promoted to principal in 2001.
RENATO PENTEADO ("Rubies") joined Miami City Ballet in 1999 and was promoted to principal in 2004.
ALEX WONG (Tarantella) danced with Goh Ballet Company, American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, and American Ballet Theatre before joining Miami City Ballet in 2005. He was promoted to soloist in 2007.
NANCY REYNOLDS, a former member of the New York City Ballet, is the director of research for The George Balanchine Foundation and author of several books, including No Fixed Points (co-authored with Malcolm McCormick).