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Villella To Step Down from MCB

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An astonishing headline. Glad to read that this will not occur until the end of the 2012-13 season. Plenty of time to organize a search. And to do the kind of thinking that allows one to develop an appreciation of a great dancer, nurturer of dancers, and maker of companies.

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Mr. Villella has been remarkable for the development of ballet in Florida. Wishing him much happiness in retirement and may those on the search committee find a new AD with integrity, a wide knowledge of ballet and schooling and the ability to raise much needed funds to continue the growth of MCB. :clapping:

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Agree entirely, vrsfanatic.

The Miami Herald article is here:

http://www.miamihera...ap-forward.html

Facebook comments by the dancers are already starting. It seems unexpected. Alex Wong's "Wow" may sum up the first reaction of surprise that many are feeling.

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I have to say that my immediate reaction to this can't be written here.

Suffice it to say,

:jawdrop:

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Helene, judging by your post, you had the same reaction I did! The ballet world will miss his direct leadership, but I hope that he will continue to be involved in an advisory capacity to many other companies around the world. Bravo for an amazing career!

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Gulp!

Mr. Villella ... is leaving to continue other professional pursuits.

That'll be interesting, I think we can count on that. Whatever it is. More than once, people attending his pre-performance talks have asked him about putting them in a book. He usually says, No, I'll leave that to the writers. I think he likes movement.

And a year after he steps down, they're due back in Paris. Hmm...

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I am selfishly sad to hear of this transition, but wish Mr. Villella only the best of everything and surely trust his judgement. I'm thinking it is good thing that they are due back in Paris a year later as it will marshall the forces behind whomever his successor is.... It will help to have the excitement of Paris to buoy the troupe through the transition.

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The New York Times has a revealing story today about the departure of Edward Villella, making it clear that he was forced out:

http://www.nytimes.c...d.html?_r=1

The company’s board leadership called Mr. Villella’s departure a mutual decision. But although his age — 75 — suggests that retirement was not far off, Mr. Villella was forced out, according to recent interviews with his supporters on the board, friends and others familiar with the company.

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I guess the Times makes it "official." Thanks, California. Frankly, I'm glad this has finally gone public, so that a larger group of people -- including all of us who are fans of the dancers and the repertory, and admirers of Edward Villella -- will have a chance to provide our input as the new Board moves into the future.

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Ironic.

Balanchine did say, "Après moi, le Board." Why do these people think that a corporate model would work for an artistic venture?

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This is really sad to read today. I assumed Mr Villella wanted to depart on a high, after Paris, and find a new role as a stager or other responsibility, not quite so time consuming. MCB does tend to lose a lot of dancers, and I wonder if the financial instability mentioned in the article is part of the reason?

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I didn't see this article in today's Times, it is likely for Monday's print edition.

I wonder if the financial instability mentioned in the article is part of the reason?

I think that's a fair guess. Going by the article it sounds as if it was a combination of money worries, concerns that the company was identified too closely with Villella, and an aging and powerful director not taking hints as to where the door was. Well, I remember reading the dancers Villella fired in the layoff got letters in the mail. C'est la vie.

He declined to draw a parallel between the end of his dancing and artistic director’s phases, only saying: “It’s really about the dancers. I wanted to make a company I would have liked to dance in.”

Very nice thing to say. It sounds as if he succeeded.

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My thoughts were in line with Jayne's... that Villella saw retirement coming and wanted to retire on the laurels of the Paris season....

So very juvenile on the board's part... Questions of authority? There's a question? The Executive Director works for the Artistic Director... end of story. Companies run into trouble very quickly otherwise. They didn't have to lose the authority of an artistic director to move toward building an endowment.

Forget the statue... the company was the legacy.

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I think we've seen over and over again that when something is running well, everyone thinks they can run it. Especially Boards -- Boards have ended directorships in Boston, Hartford and Colorado, to name three that I can think of off the top of my head, in each instance tossing out the person who either founded or developed the company.

I wonder what the reaction is in Miami? Are fans and supporters happy with this, or will there be a Discussion?

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Boards are also tied to institutions, and institutions are often concerned and sometimes obsessed about succession.

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I think we've seen over and over again that when something is running well, everyone thinks they can run it. Especially Boards -- Boards have ended directorships in Boston, Hartford and Colorado, to name three that I can think of off the top of my head, in each instance tossing out the person who either founded or developed the company.

...

Add Chicago, where around 1987 Chicago City Ballet let go the founder, Maria Tallchief, precipitating a financial crisis when her husband withdrew his financial support in response. (Predictably, I would have thought.)

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Disagreements over the changes planned in MCB leadership are going public. I suspect that we will soon be hearing more about them.

One of our Members sent me the following link to an on-line article by Daisy Olivera, a former columnist for the Miami Herald. It seems to be a reliable, accurate report of the way these events look from the position of those who oppose the Board's action. Sources are named, which is always a good sign.:

http://thedaisycolumn.com/home/?p=2958

MIAMI CITY BALLET BOARD UNDER FIRE ABOUT VILLELLA RETIREMENT –

The rumblings grow louder and angrier in and around Miami City Ballet as donors and board members express their outrage at what they feel was the forced retirement of Founding Artistic Director, Edward Villella, who was and is, by all accounts, at the top of his game.

The retirement was announced after many recent successes for the young company: its first nationally broadcast PBS special; the New York debut at City Center in 2009, where the company’s performance was critically praised; and three-weeks of sold-out houses with rave reviews in Paris last summer.

Deciding the post the second article was a bit more difficult, since sources are NOT named. But, after consulting with several other Mods, I've decided to post. Thanks, Helene and dirac.

http://thedaisycolumn.com/home/?p=2891

Miami City Ballet: Dancing Through the Glass Ceiling

Rumors have been swirling wildly, not just in Miami but throughout the worldwide ballet community, since Edward Villella, Miami City Ballet’s Founding Artistic Director, announced last September he would be leaving the company he built. Why did he resign? Who will succeed him as artistic director when he exits in 2013?

Surprisingly, Villella’s abrupt resignation came on the heels of Miami City Ballet’s three weeks of stellar performances this past summer in Paris’s Theatre du Chatelet, to sold-out houses and rave reviews.

According to a source close to the MCB, prima ballerina Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg, who has danced with the company for 18 years, is Villella’s choice as a successor. “Villella presented a plan and it seems it was thought out well before his resignation. It described specifics about preparing her and mentoring her for assuming the job of artistic director upon his retirement.”

The source confirmed that the Miami City Ballet board has already formed a search committee to find the replacement for the iconic Villella. Within the company there is growing fear and discontent over the push for a national search because it could spell doom for Villella’s vision and the future of the company.

There are two parallel but distinct stories here, it seems to me. The first story: a possible movement to reverse the Board's decision (possibly the decision of an inner group within the Board). The second story: who should succeed Villella, if his retirement at the end of the 2012-13 season is indeed a fait accompli?

Let's keep this thread for discussing both stories. Please don't forget that hearsay and unsupported rumor about events are not permitted on Ballet Alert.

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I don't want to speculate about whether or not Villella will return to Miami City Ballet, but at some point they will have to find a new artistic director, and I would like to think that they will go about the process thoughtfully and deliberately. I don't know Ms Kronenberg's work at all, but to acknowledge the idea that she would need to be mentored as she made a transition into a new position seems a positive step to me.

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IMHO, it would be best to sign a 5 year contract with Villella and appoint Ms. Kronenberg Associate Artistic Director. This will give the company the "star power" of both of them, provide a stable leadership transition plan, and take some of the work burden off Mr. Villella, by shifting it to someone he trusts.

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Boards are also tied to institutions, and institutions are often concerned and sometimes obsessed about succession.

Boards are strange entities--some are so timid to confront or even question an AD's decisions or behavior; others toss 'em out w/out any discernible justification. To speak up for institutions--in the abstract at least--someone has to think about succession when ADs do not, especially if they are associated with the founding of the company. Problems like this are sometimes referred to as part of "founder's syndrome" or founderitis, as described below (quoted from this link) >>Disclaimer: I am NOT saying these apply to Villella<<.

"Founder's syndrome manifests in numerous ways. The leader who suffers from founderitis

  • Gives short shrift to planning activities, staff meetings, and administrative policies;
  • Is reluctant to relinquish strategies and procedures that worked in the past, although circumstances may dictate new approaches;
  • Neglects to institute new systems, even though the board has formally requested them;
  • Seeks and accepts little input from others in making decisions;
  • Sees all challenges as hostile and drives away staff and board members perceived as disloyal; and
  • Refuses to delegate authority."

Many of these describe most of the people I've worked for! Seriously, though, I think it's worth thinking about the problems on all sides (as Sandik and Jayne are).

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Ray, I think it is fair to say that several of your Founderitis symptoms are true of Villella. On the other hand, despite some financial waste and personnel inequities, the results include a remarkable repertoire and fantastic dancers. It is difficult to take a firm, unambivalent position -- for me at least.

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The problem is when art becomes a business and the artist becomes a founder. When Tina Brown became editor of the the New Yorker, George Trow left in protest - and later Brown asked another writer to do a piece in his style. I can imagine another director, who does all the right things, being asked to do present a ballet as Villella would: art without the artist's rough-edged temperament, without the danger of art.

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I can imagine another director, who does all the right things, being asked to do present a ballet as Villella would: art without the artist's rough-edged temperament, without the danger of art.

Very interesting observation, Quiggan. And one which relates directly to the matter of "the succession."

Jennifer Kronenberg, who seems (or seemed) to have an inside track on the A.D. position is a WONDERFUL dancer and one of MCB's biggest assets. I don't think it would be unfair to say, however, that "the danger of art" is not a part of her dance persona. Not yet anyway. If kronenberg is indeed the choice, it seems that the idea of a defined and structured period of mentoring, as suggested by sandik and jayne, is quite a good idea.

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