Kristen

Interview with Edward Villella (by Marina Harss)

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Marina Harss (I always enjoy what she she has to say) interviews Edward Villella after leaving (not happily) Miami City Ballet.

http://dancetabs.com/2013/07/edward-villella-founding-artistic-director-of-miami-city-ballet/

Very interesting - Having apparently been slumming it in Miami for several decades, EV Now bites the hand that fed him for 25 years. You can take the boy out of New York, but you can't take New York out of the boy. As a (nearly) life long Floridian and unabashed lover of New York, I don't know why anyone would even bother to compare the two places .... however, an interesting interview, nevertheless.

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"EV Now bites the hand that fed him for 25 years." I noticed that!

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Villella created the hand from scratch. His words might not be gracious, but he wasn't hired to lead an established institution, and he gave far more to MCB, in my opinion, than he got. If the board decided at the end that the trade-off was no longer worth it or that he was endangering the institution, it certainly had the right make the choice it did, but I'm not sure why he has any more obligation to be loyal to it than Balanchine, who, when crossed, would say he'd leave NYCB and move to Switzerland to start a little company.

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Thanks for that link, Kristen. As you say, an "interesting interview" -- and a good one, I think. He leaves out a lot, but what he says has the ring of truth.

I didn't focus so much as you and sandik on the comments about Miami, several of which apply to the situtation he entered at the time the company was founded. Nothing isn't true in what he says.

What struck me most was Villella's genuine passion for the aesthetics of the kind of ballet he grew up with as a student of Balanchine, an aesthetic which is arguably one of the most important American contributions to the20th-century arts.

For example, his well-deserved tribute to MCB's marvellous pianist, Francisco Renno, leads to a memory of the way Villella structured his company classes, and what is to me a rather brilliant observation about Balanchine's work::

I gave all these intricate steps, and he would play and embellish what I was doing. He played a lot of jazz. I looked at the ballets and figured out what kind of barre would benefit these dancers and gave them an insitute into the musicality, the attack. I worked to the back of the room, away from the mirrors, a lot. If I look at Balanchine ballet, it's a series of simplicities that make up an apparent complexity. So I took my time. We didn't do Agon until about the fifth year.

I was touched by the way he talks about the triumphant two weeks in Paris -- as a kind of summation of everything he had been trying to build since arriving in Miami. I think they were. His comment regarding Lopez is generous, and also wise. Miami and MCB are out of his hands now, and he seems okay with that and is signalling to the ballet world that he still knows a lot and has much that is unique and valuable to offer. Good for him.

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Just above the question about whether he regrets anything he's said and done is a 8-minute video profile with some footage of his dancing. What I find most amazing is how he can morph from powerful to clear and gentle without any seeming transition. (Quiggin posted the standalone video below.)

We were privileged to hear Renno in Phoenix when he played for Ballet Arizona in at least one Balanchine program.

Villella's comments about Paris made me think of former PNB Music Director Stewart Kershaw, who left suddenly after conducting the first production of Maillot's "Romeo et Juliette.". (Until then PNB had danced Kent Stowell's "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet" to an assembled score of Tchaikovsky excerpts that Kershaw created with Stowell.). He was ecstatic about conducting the Prokofiev, a pinacle for him, and it could only go downhill from there, a musically mixed bag and a month-long run of sugarplums to face.

After Paris, it must have felt like a bad hangover.

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... What struck me most was Villella's genuine passion for the aesthetics of the kind of ballet he grew up with as a student of Balanchine, an aesthetic which is arguably one of the most important American contributions to the20th-century arts ... His comment regarding Lopez is generous, and also wise. Miami and MCB are out of his hands now, and he seems okay with that and is signalling to the ballet world that he still knows a lot and has much that is unique and valuable to offer. Good for him.

Yes. Always difficult when the founder and guiding light of a great institution is fired.

Also there are some interesting comments in the A&E Revue clip about the challenges of dancing Balanchine – being lyrical and dancing with all out brilliance at the same time. Plus clips of Tchaikovsky Pdd, Tarantella, Glinkiana and a tiny glimpse at Rubies. His Tarantella is an eye-opener, how he varies the accents and timing between the smaller steps and the larger figures.

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"EV Now bites the hand that fed him for 25 years." I noticed that!

I'll say. "It was awful having to work for two decades in the boonies with those yahoos who wouldn't give me any money and didn't appreciate how blessed they were by my presence. There wasn't even a skating rink for my wife. Praise God I'm back among the civilized. "

Of course, Villella may be tooting his own horn, but certainly he has some remarkable accomplishments in Nowheresville, I mean Miami, to toot about.

This was interesting:

Most of our Latin dancers were Cuban, and where do the Cubans get their ideas from? Russia. So it was mostly the nineteenth-century style. It was a big deal to get them from where they were, in the 19th century, into Stravinsky and Modernism. It took a long time. So the idea of the company being Latinized is not completely valid.

Thanks for posting, Kristen, this was fun to read.

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interview aside, that clip of his performances is amazing. He was like James Cagney, Gene Kelly and Michael Corleone all wrapped up into one. I loved that Rubies! It is rare to see it danced with such jazzy panache.

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Very interesting interview and terrific clip. Loved the part from Tarantella. I hope he finds a position worthy of his talents and depth of knowledge.

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Villella created the hand from scratch. His words might not be gracious, but he wasn't hired to lead an established institution, and he gave far more to MCB, in my opinion, than he got. If the board decided at the end that the trade-off was no longer worth it or that he was endangering the institution, it certainly had the right make the choice it did, but I'm not sure why he has any more obligation to be loyal to it than Balanchine, who, when crossed, would say he'd leave NYCB and move to Switzerland to start a little company.

I have to agree - when you are the one that is forced to figure out every aspect of an enterprise, and come up with the '5 year plan', then it's natural to think that it is your project - to take both credit and blame for. And he was willing to take that responsibility on - at least for the first 25 years. Naturally, Villella was having to raise and spend other people's money, but don't we all do that in one way or another? So I don't think it's really a case of "biting the hand that feeds".

He obviously has some anger still about the split, regardless of what he says. Having to start all over again is demoralizing to be sure.

I was touched by the way he talks about the triumphant two weeks in Paris -- as a kind of summation of everything he had been trying to build since arriving in Miami. I think they were. His comment regarding Lopez is generous, and also wise. Miami and MCB are out of his hands now, and he seems okay with that and is signalling to the ballet world that he still knows a lot and has much that is unique and valuable to offer. Good for him.

It's interesting how the Paris perfromances have become their high-water mark, kind of their "Stravinksy Festival" moment. At least Villella got to experience that. But in recent interviews he seems to imply that he was running out of 'vision', and maybe that was a big part of the issue - how to then become something more than a company that dances Balanchine really well. As you say, "he still knows a lot and has much that is unique and valuable to offer", and Villella is one of those people who keeps demanding that the people with knowledge be given as many opportunities as possible to pass it on. However, it's never been all that easy to pass on the knowlege adn skills, especially regarding the Balanchine ballets.

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I have to agree - when you are the one that is forced to figure out every aspect of an enterprise, and come up with the '5 year plan', then it's natural to think that it is your project - to take both credit and blame for. And he was willing to take that responsibility on - at least for the first 25 years.

Or as Beverly Sills liked to say, "I don't share credit. I don't share blame. I don't share desert."

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I have to agree - when you are the one that is forced to figure out every aspect of an enterprise, and come up with the '5 year plan', then it's natural to think that it is your project - to take both credit and blame for. And he was willing to take that responsibility on - at least for the first 25 years.

Or as Beverly Sills liked to say, "I don't share credit. I don't share blame. I don't share desert."

LOL - I believe in Edward's case that would be a bottle of wine or whiskey.

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I have to agree - when you are the one that is forced to figure out every aspect of an enterprise, and come up with the '5 year plan', then it's natural to think that it is your project - to take both credit and blame for. And he was willing to take that responsibility on - at least for the first 25 years.

Or as Beverly Sills liked to say, "I don't share credit. I don't share blame. I don't share desert."

Hmmm. Not sure that Bubbles, who apparently never forgot a slight and harbored grudges with energy, is the ideal to follow in this context. Villella's remarks about Miami do sound a bit Sills-like. I would hope that ADs share credit and acknowledge help where credit is due and help received, while not forgetting where the buck stops.

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Also there are some interesting comments in the A&E Revue clip about the challenges of dancing Balanchine – being lyrical and dancing with all out brilliance at the same time. Plus clips of Tchaikovsky Pdd, Tarantella, Glinkiana and a tiny glimpse at Rubies. His Tarantella is an eye-opener, how he varies the accents and timing between the smaller steps and the larger figures.

Yes, indeed. No surprise that Baryshnikov had his troubles with the Villella repertory.

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Hmmm. Not sure that Bubbles, who apparently never forgot a slight and harbored grudges with energy, is the ideal to follow in this context. Villella's remarks about Miami do sound a bit Sills-like. I would hope that ADs share credit and acknowledge help where credit is due and help received, while not forgetting where the buck stops.

I haven't seen any evidence yet that Villella has been angry with anyone other than the MCB board. He generally does give credit where credit is due, he just delivers it in his New York manner. He is a 77 year old man from Queens, 'How much graciousness you want?' ;)

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I wrote "ADs" not "Villella," and I was commenting on the quotation from Beverly Sills. I have no idea who Villella's angry at, myself, or if he's really angry at anyone, but as you noted earlier in this thread, he does sound a trifle edgy, which is understandable since all of this is quite recent history. Nobody likes to get sacked.

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I think Villella probably feels his was the hand that was bit.

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I think Villella probably feels his was the hand that was bit.

Brilliantly said!

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I'm afraid to read this interview. Bart, is it ok?


I really like him. I think he referred to himself at MCB (someone quoted) as "The Big Chief".


I'm sure there're many sides to his leaving, but underneath it all he really seemed to *Love* his art and 'his' dancers.

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Read it, Buddy. And click on all of the video clips.

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"I feel like I’ve been culturally deprived for twenty-five years"

[Miami]- "It’s a resort town, a clubbing town, it’s very shallow culturally"

Oh, we all know that. It is just a little hard to realize that there's never a step forward about changing such vision-(one that I happen to share, BTW). At the end of every story you end up knowing that, once again, real, deep rooting never happens over here...even after 25 years...(sight in frustration)

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Thanks, Helene.


As an hotel doorman once told my stepfather when asked if he might need an umbrella to walk down the block.


"Live dangerously, sir, live dangerously!"

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Read it, Buddy. And click on all of the video clips.

Yes, the video clips alone are worth the price of admission.

"I feel like I’ve been culturally deprived for twenty-five years"

[Miami]- "It’s a resort town, a clubbing town, it’s very shallow culturally"

Oh, we all know that. It is just a little hard to realize that there's never a step forward about changing such vision-(one that I happen to share, BTW). At the end of every story you end up knowing that, once again, real, deep rooting never happens over here...even after 25 years...(sight in frustration)

I now live in an area that is culturally similar to Miami - San Diego, so I concur. I'm amazed at how little SD has really changed in the last 30 years. I keep my mind and spirit in the San Francisco Bay area, just to stay sane. And of course, it is possible to carry your 'culture' with you, if you're mindful.

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Thanks, Helene.
As an hotel doorman once told my stepfather when asked if he might need an umbrella to walk down the block.
"Live dangerously, sir, live dangerously!"

Now *there* is a quotable quote!

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