Miami City Ballet dancers, staff, friends and supporters gathered on October 1 to celebrate and honor America’s most celebrated male ballet dancer, Company Founding Artistic Director Edward Villella, at a special 75th birthday bash at Miami City Ballet studios in Miami Beach. The eveningâ€™s festivities featured cocktails, dinner, dancing and a pre-screening of the WNET/ PBS National television special, â€œGreat Performances: Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine & Tharp.â€
The festivities began with a cocktail reception sponsored by Bacardi U.S.A. Guests then took to the 225-seat intimate studio theater for a special pre-screening of WNET/PBS program â€œGreat Performances: Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine & Tharp.â€ The program included a trio of signature works by George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp that showcased the companyâ€™s critically acclaimed performances of Balanchineâ€™s Square Dance and Western Symphony and Tharpâ€™s â€œThe Golden Section.â€
Following the screening, guests enjoyed dinner, dancing and tributes from some of Edward Villellaâ€™s closest friends and dance peers. A special montage of the most memorable and outstanding moments in Villellaâ€™s illustrious career was shown.
Edward Villella is regarded as the greatest American-born male ballet dancer of our time. He proved that a tough, brash kid out of Maritime College could become a major artist, and in doing so, changed the way men danced in America as well as the way male dancers were perceived. Born in Bayside, New York, in 1936, Villella entered the School of American Ballet at age ten, but interrupted his dance training to complete academic studies at the New York Maritime Academy, where he obtained a B.S. in marine transportation, lettered in baseball and was a championship boxer. In 1957 he was invited to join the New York City Ballet, where he was quickly promoted to Soloist (1958), and then to Principal Dancer (1960). Villella was the original male lead in many important ballets in the New York City Ballet repertoire. Perhaps his most famous role was in the 1960 revival of Balanchineâ€™s 1929 masterpiece, Prodigal Son. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the School of American Ballet. His biggest accomplishment is co-founding Miami City Ballet with philanthropist Toby Lerner Ansin in 1985. Villella has taken the renowned company to dizzying heights, winning critical acclaim in South Florida, New York and around the world. This July, the company made its Paris debut performing for three-weeks to sold-out houses and standing ovations at the world-famous ThÃ©Ã¢ter du ChÃ¢telet.
â€œGreat Performances: Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine &Tharpâ€ will air nationwide Friday, October 28. Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET, one of Americaâ€™s most prolific and respected public media providers. PBS Arts from Miami: Great Performances â€œMiami City Ballet Dances Balanchine & Tharpâ€ airs locally on Friday, October 28 at 9pm on WPBT2.
Miami City Balletâ€™s 2011-12 season runs from October to April at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale and Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Highlights include a World Premiere ballet by Liam Scarlett, Britainâ€™s hottest, young choreographer, the return of the full-length productions of Giselle and CoppÃ©lia and George Balanchineâ€™s The Nutcrackerâ„¢ this December in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The Opus One Orchestra will perform live for all repertory programs. Subscribe now for best seating and prices at www.miamicityballet.org or call (305) 929-7010 or toll-free (877) 929-7010.
Photographs by Betty Alvarez