Edward Villella: Founding Artistic Director
Villella showed that a tough brash kid out of Maritime College could turn into a major artist, and in doing so, changed the way men danced in America as well as the way male dancers were perceived.
Since 1986, he has focused his talent, his intelligence, and his energy on creating and maintaining a world-famous ballet company in South Florida.
In recognition of his achievements, President Clinton presented Mr. Villella with the 1997 National Medal of Arts. Also in 1997, he was named a Kennedy Center Honoree, and was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
Edward Villella was born in Bayside, New York in 1936. He entered the School of American Ballet at age ten but interrupted his dance training to complete academic studies. A graduate of the New York Maritime Academy, he obtained a B.S. in marine transportation, lettered in baseball, and was a championship boxer.
He returned to SAB following graduation in 1955, and in 1957 was invited to join the New York City Ballet, where he was quickly promoted to Soloist (1958), and then to Principal Dancer (1960). Mr. Villella was the original male lead in many important ballets in the New York City Ballet repertoire, among them Tarantella, the “Rubies” section of Jewels, Symphony in Three Movements, Dances at a Gathering, Watermill, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon) Perhaps his most famous role was in the 1960 revival of Balanchine’s 1929 masterpiece, Prodigal Son.
Mr. Villella was the first American male dancer to perform with the Royal Danish Ballet, and the only American ever to be asked to dance an encore at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. He danced for President Kennedy’s inauguration and for Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford. He was producer/director for the PBS series “Dance in America” for one and a-half years, and in 1975 won an Emmy Award for his CBS television production of “Harlequinade”. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the School of American Ballet. The University of Pittsburgh Press reissued Villella’s 1992 autobiography, Prodigal Son: Dancing for Balanchine in a World of Pain and Magic, written with Larry Kaplan, in March 1998.
He is married to Linda Villella, the Director of Miami City Ballet School.
Top Images: Edward Villella, Photo © Gio Alma.
Small Image: Edward Villella and MCB Dancers in The Neighborhood Ballroom, Photo © Joe Gato.