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Ballet Encyclopedia

Edward Villella

born: 1936

Born in Bayside New York in 1936, Edward Villella entered the School of American Ballet at the age of 10. A few years later he interrupted his dance training to concentrate on academics and graduated from the New York Maritime Academy with a B.S. in marine transportation. Edward also got into sports, was lettered in baseball and became a Golden Gloves boxing champion. At the age of 19 he returned to the School of American Ballet and two years later was invited to join New York City Ballet under Balanchine. In one year, Villella became a soloist and in 1960 was promoted to Principal dancer.

Many roles were created on Villella: Tarantella, "Rubies" dance from Jewels and the character of Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream. He is probably most known for his interpretation of the 1960 revival of Balanchine's 1929 masterpiece The Prodigal Son. Edward Villella became the first American dancer to perform with the Royal Danish Ballet and is the only American ever to be asked to dance an encore at the Bolshoi Theater. He also danced for President Kennedy's inauguration and through the years for Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford.

Mr. Villella was the producer and director for the PBS series "Dance in America" for a year and a half and his CBS television production of Harlequinade in 1975 won him an Emmy award.

Six years were spent as a Board Trustee of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. From 1981 to 1982, he was a Visiting Artist at the US Military Academy at West Point. Mr. Villella was the Artistic Director of Ballet Oklahoma from 1984 to 1986 and in 1986 he founded the Miami City Ballet. His wife Linda, a former Olympic figure skater, was the founder and director of the Miami City Ballet School. Together they had three children: a son named Roddy and two daughters named Lauren and Crista.

In 1991 Union College established the Edward Villella Fellowship and it was awarded for the first time in May 1996. In 1992, he wrote his autobiography Prodigal Son: Dancing for Balanchine in a World of Pain and Magic which was reissued in 1998 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

A big year for Mr. Villella was 1997; he saw himself awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Bill Clinton and he was also named a Kennedy Center Honoree. We can also see him in the 1997 movie Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse. He also received the National Society of Arts and Letters Award for Lifetime Achievement Gold Medal, making him only the fourth dance personality to receive this award. Edward has also been a Harvard Visiting Artist in 1999-2000 and received the Kiphuth Fellowship Award from Yale University.

Mr. Villella now serves on the Board of Trustees of the School of American Ballet and is the Artistic Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Miami City Ballet.

Funny Fact:
Quotes by Edward Villella:
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