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Interview with Edward Villella

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Rebecca King Ferraro and Michael Breeden interview Edward Villella on their Conversation on Dance Podcast.  The first part of the three part interview can be found here

Edited by cahill

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As always, a very informative podcast by Rebecca and Michael.

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Hard to miss, with Edward Villella, I'd say.  As Rebecca says near the end, tune in on June 12 for part two.  But she also refers to Prodigal as among the roles Balanchine made on Villella; I don't think so.  I think Mr. B. revived it for him, which is not quite the same, although it showed that in Villella Balanchine saw someone right for the role.  

 

Anyway, the big "take away" for me in this installment was Villella's recollection of how stimulating it was to be a different person in each of several roles in an evening's program.  Now, he says, when he coaches a role, the dancers only approach it technically; "they don't know who they are on stage."  As a spectator, this is what I usually find missing onstage today, the dancers' knowing who they are.  (When I go at all, that is.)

Edited by Jack Reed

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The original Prodigal was Serge Lifar, and Balanchine choreographed "Prodigal Son" in 1929.  Villella wasn't born until after Balanchine moved to America.

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1 hour ago, Jack Reed said:

Anyway, the big "take away" for me in this installment was Villella's recollection of how stimulating it was to be a different person in each of several roles in an evening's program.  Now, he says, when he coaches a role, the dancers only approach it technically; "they don't know who they are on stage."  As a spectator, this is what I usually find missing onstage today, the dancers' knowing who they are.  (When I go at all, that is.)

 

That is an important difference between good technical dancers and true stage artists - the artist knows what she want to do with a role, and what she wants to reveal to the world through the choreography. It's a step beyond what the choreographer can ask for (and hope for). Thus the magic.

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Well...  when it comes to what the choreographer can ask for or hope for, doesn't it often depend on who the choreographer chooses to collaborate with?  I think some of the stories I've picked up about Ashton or Balanchine going into the studio with someone, listening to some music, and saying, "Show me something," are probably not limited to those two gentlemen - or maybe that's also less common nowadays.  The dancers in those stories were usually ones the choreographer had worked with, whom he was familiar with.   (Would Balanchine have made Emeralds if he hadn't had Verdy?  Or, would Balanchine have made Jewels if he hadn't had Verdy?  Some say, to the second question, no.)

 

Getting back more to Villella, I recall one evening in Ft. Lauderdale, responding to a question in one of his pre-performance talks, when he was directing MCB, he said, "I can't teach talent.  I can teach technique to talent, but I can't teach talent."  I think that's what we're talking about, maybe with a little different emphasis, but yes, it's magic, real magic.  We see beyond the moves - at least I do - into the world of that ballet.

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More great information - I especially liked hearing something about Bugaku (which is rarely discussed), and Villella's experience with TV dance performances.

Edited by pherank

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Thanks for posting these. I've really enjoyed them.

 

Edward sounds so mellowed and matured. His artistic sensitivity really shows more than ever. Some of his anecdotes are very interesting and at times very entertaining. Also his emphasis on giving meaning to the dance is very impressive as has been mentioned above. 

 

Peter Martin's in a video clip says something that remains with me. George Balanchine told him that he (Balanchine) was a sentimentalist at heart but tried to not let it show in his choreography. Edward also comes across the same but not afraid to let it show. Edward makes the point that George Balanchine was a very simple man who also happened to be a genius. I've read the same thing about Mozart.

 

Edward is a bit of a street fighter, which may have been what got him into trouble at the Miami City Ballet. In public he jokes about being considered a beer drinker in a champagne world. Yet his artistic sensitivity and love of his art as well as his artistic intelligence and ability are compelling. I do hope that he and his family are doing as well as possible. He seems to have matured in his view of things. He's more reflexive. Perhaps there will be another opportunity for him to accomplish what he did artistically at the Miami City Ballet, if he would wish to pursue it.

 

I've said it often, that no matter what his personal limitations may have been at times, the Miami City Ballet, for me, had a feeling of warmth and family when he was there. The quality of the company was highly acknowledged. Hopefully there will always be a place for him there. 

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