EDWARD VILLELLA AND MIMI PAUL TO RECORD VIDEO SERIES FOR THE GEORGE BALANCHINE FOUNDATION
New York City — Edward Villella, who danced with New York City Ballet from 1957 to 1981, and Mimi Paul, whose performing career with both NYCB and American Ballet Theatre extended from 1960 to 1973, will teach and coach Bugaku for the cameras of the George Balanchine Foundation. Recording will take place on February 20, 2017, at the NYCB studios in the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York. The two coaches will work with Maria Kowroski and Jared Angle, principals with NYCB. Nancy McDill, solo pianist with the NYCB orchestra, will accompany the session, and writer Joel Lobenthal will interview the coaches. The recording will be supervised by Nancy Reynolds, the foundation's Director of Research, assisted by Paul Boos, Virginia Brooks, and Gus Reed.
The GBF Video Archives document the insights of dancers, often principals from original casts, who worked closely with Balanchine. The Archives’ mission is to preserve this knowledge and pass it on to today’s dancers, scholars, and audiences. The Archives are available world-wide through public and university libraries. In addition, the interview components are available on the Balanchine Foundation’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/blnchn).
The exotic and mysterious Bugaku is one of Balanchine’s most unusual creations. As the Japanese-born composer of the score, Toshiro Mayuzumi, observed, “I cannot say that my music is really Japanese-flavored, but I am a Buddhist and very interested in Zen philosophy, so I hope that some kind of Japanese spirit reflects in my work.” In similar manner, Balanchine, influenced by Japan’s Gagaku Musicians and Dancers, with their history dating back more than 1000 years, did not attempt a direct imitation of an ancient all-male court dance [bugaku] but transposed Western classical ballet into a style suggested by the music. The ballet depicts what has been referred to as a “nuptial rite.” The principal couple, accompanied by their entourages, sets the scene, leading to an elaborate pas de deux representing a preordained sexual encounter.
Balanchine stressed the contrasting movement personalities of male and female. Arthur Mitchell, the lead male in the original alternate cast, recalls that “[he] was always at me to be down, down, down, like a wrestler. He spoke of the woman’s movements as a blossom unfolding.”
Villella, the original male lead, wrote (in his autobiography, Prodigal Son), “The use of the floor . .. is totally different from all other ballets. It’s more a strut than a walk. The [all-male] Gagaku dancers weren’t delicate. They had weight. I thought of samurai warriors. . . .
Allegra Kent, on whom Balanchine created the female role, wrote (in her autobiography, Once a Dancer . . . ) , “I wanted to portray something of the look, beauty, and mystery of Japanese women. My objective was some intangible quality that would evoke the haunting aura of this ancient culture. . . . I always do it with a face that shows no emotion, with what I feel is a Japanese look. . . . I participate but my eyes and face are averted from the reality of what’s happening.”
Mimi Paul, the female lead in the original alternate cast, observed, “I will never forget the experience of all of us collaborating with Mr. B. on Bugaku. What stays with me was his respect for the Japanese culture, as shown through his elegant demonstrations of the movements in rehearsal.”
EDWARD VILLELLA has long been considered one of the finest male ballet dancers of the 20th century. In addition to his virtuoso technique and dynamic stage presence, he projected a new image of the male principal, dancing not only the hero, the prince, or the cavalier, which had defined a leading male dancer up to that time, but also the rambunctious youth, the athlete, the contemporary street-smart city kid. George Balanchine created many notable roles on him, including those in “Rubies” from Jewels, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tarantella, Bugaku, and Harlequinade. Jerome Robbins created a leading role for him in Dances at a Gathering (the youth who touches the earth) and the Zen-influenced Watermill. (Robbins also cites the very young student Villella as influential in the genesis of Afternoon of a Faun. ) However, despite the Balanchine and Robbins roles tailor-made to display Villella’s unique qualities and a wide range of other roles in the NYCB repertory (Symphony in C, Western Symphony, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, “Thunder and Gladiator” from Stars and Stripes, Afternoon of a Faun), the role for which he is best known is that of the Prodigal Son. He has been active in educational programs in which he has always stressed the masculine nature of the male role and the intricacies involved in partnering the ballerina.
Retiring from performing in 1981, in 1986 Villella founded the Miami City Ballet, where he remained as artistic director until 2012. In addition to performing regularly at several venues in Florida, the company appeared at Kennedy Center, New York’s City Center, and for a three-week sold-out season at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris in 2011.
MIMI PAUL trained at the school of the Washington Ballet. While still a student, she had ballets created especially for her by renowned company director Mary Day and by Heino Heiden. In 1960, she was invited to join NYCB, where her qualities of lyricism, elegance, and mystery were immediately recognized. At NYCB, she danced leading roles in, among others, Balanchine’s Apollo, Episodes, Symphony in C (second movement), Four Temperaments, Bugaku, La Valse, Liebeslieder Walzer, Serenade, The Nutcracker, Divertimento No. 15, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In addition, she danced Jerome Robbins’s Afternoon of a Faun, in the company premiere of Antony Tudor’s Dim Lustre, and in Frederick Ashton’s Illuminations. Balanchine created roles for her in Don Quixote, Emeralds, and Valse-Fantaisie. In 1969 she joined American Ballet Theatre, where she danced the leads in Giselle and the full-length Swan Lake, in Paquita, Les Sylphides, Tudor’s Lilac Garden, Massine’s Gaite Parisienne, and in the company premiere of Eliot Feld’s Intermezzo.
In 1973 she retired from performing and taught for a decade at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem. In later years she staged Divertimento No. 15 for the Maggiodanza in Florence and has coached at Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C., Indiana University, and Washington Ballet. For the George Balanchine Foundation, she taped coaching sessions of her roles in Emeralds and Valse-Fantaisie. “I like to encourage dancers to use their imagination,” she says, “to ask them, ‘What are you saying with all that technique?’ A great pleasure in working so closely with Balanchine was that his trust freed us. You had room to breathe. I like to encourage dancers to courageously expose who they are.”
MARIA KOWROSKI became an apprentice with NYCB in 1994, joining the corps de ballet in 1995. In 1997 she was promoted to soloist and in 1999 to principal dancer. She has performed numerous leading roles in the core Balanchine repertory as well as leads in ballets by Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon and Mauro Bigonzetti.
JARED ANGLE became an apprentice with NYCB in March 1998 and joined the NYCB corps de ballet later the same year. He was promoted to soloist in 2001 and to principal in 2005. During his tenure with the company he has performed many featured roles in ballets by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins.
JOEL LOBENTHAL is Associate Editor of Ballet Review. His most recent book is Wilde Times: Patricia Wilde, George Balanchine, and the Rise of the New York City Ballet. He is working on biographies of Yuri Soloviev and Diana Sands.
NANCY REYNOLDS, a former dancer with NYCB, has been Director of Research for The George Balanchine Foundation since 1994. She conceived and continues to direct the Video Archives program.
PAUL BOOS is a former NYCB dancer and current repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust. In 2015 he became the George Balanchine Foundation's Video Archives Project Associate.
VIRGINIA BROOKS, Professor Emerita of Film at Brooklyn College/CUNY and director of several documentaries, has been an editor for the GBF's Video Archives since 1994.
GUS REED, a New York City-based filmmaker, specializes in capturing and editing dance. His recent projects include videos for NYCB's "Project Ballet" initiative, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, Emery LeCrone Dance and the Liz Gerring Dance Co. He has been associated with the GBF since 2014 and is an editor for the GBF's Video Archives.
The George Balanchine Foundation (www.balanchine.org) is a not for profit corporation established in 1983. Its mission is to create programs that educate the public and further Balanchine's work and aesthetic, with the goal of advancing high standards of excellence in dance and its allied arts. Among the Foundation's major initiatives are the Video Archives (https://balanchine.org/03/gbfvideoarchives.html), in which dancers who worked closely with Balanchine teach and coach their roles to the dancers of today (Interpreters Archive) or recreate Balanchine ballets that are rarely performed and in danger of disappearing (Archive of Lost Choreography). Legendary dancers who have taken part in this project include Alicia Markova, Maria Tallchief, Frederic Franklin, Alicia Alonso, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, Todd Bolender, Merrill Ashley, Suzanne Farrell, Rosella Hightower, Marie-Jeanne, Violette Verdy, Edward Villella, Patricia Wilde, Yvonne Mounsey, and Helgi Tomasson, working with leading dancers from such companies as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, among others.
In 2007 the Foundation announced the completion of another major initiative, the online publication of the Balanchine Catalogue, a fully searchable database giving first-performance details of all known dances created by Balanchine, supplemented by lists of companies staging the ballets, a bibliography, a videography, reference resources, a database of roles Balanchine performed, and additional related materials (https://balanchine.org/03/balanchinecataloguenew.html). The project was made possible by a leadership grant from The Jerome Robbins Foundation.