Edward Villella certainly America's most celebrated male dancer
did much to popularize the role of the male in dance through the supreme artistry
and virility he exhibited during his performance career. Offstage he has been
as influential, accepting the role of Founding Artistic Director of Miami City
Ballet in 1986 and achieving worldwide acclaim for the Company in a mere decade
of dance. In recognition of his achievements, President Clinton presented to Mr.
Villella the 1997 National Medal of Arts. Also in 1997, Mr. Villella was named
a Kennedy Center Honoree, and was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
Mr. Villella is recognized nationally and internationally for his contributions
to the field of classical dance and arts in education. Recently named the Dorothy
F. Schmidt Artist-in-Residence at Florida Atlantic University, he was also Heritage
Chairman, Arts and Cultural Criticism, at George Mason University in Virginia,
and serves on the Board of Trustees of the School of American Ballet.
He has served as chairman of New York City's Commission for Cultural Affairs,
and has been a member of the National Endowment for the Arts' Dance Advisory Panel
and the National Council on the Arts. He served for six years on the Board of
Trustees of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. In 1981, he served
as Ida Beam Visiting Professor at the University of Iowa and, from 1981-82, was
Visiting Artist at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In 1985 he was Regents
Lecturer at the Irvine campus of the University of California. From 1984 through
1986, Mr. Villella served as Artistic Director of Ballet Oklahoma and was the
Artistic Director of the Madison Festival of the Lakes.
Among the distinguished honors awarded to him are the 38th annual Capezio Dance
Award; the Frances Holleman Breathitt Award for Excellence, for his outstanding
contribution to the arts and to the education of young people; the National Society
of Arts & Letters Award for Lifetime Achievement (becoming only the fourth
dance personality to receive the Gold Medal); the Dance Magazine Award (1964);
the Cultural Service Award from the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts (1998),
and the George C. Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, presented
by the South Florida Critics Association (1997). He has been awarded honorary
degrees by the State University of New York, University of South Carolina, St.
Thomas University, Siena College, Fordham University, Skidmore College, Nazareth
College, Florida Atlantic University where he actually serves as Artist in Residence
and Union College, which established the Edward Villella Fellowship in 1991, with
the first Fellowship awarded in May, 1996.
Mr. Villella was a 1999-2000 Harvard Visiting Artist. He was also recently selected
one of "America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures" by The Dance Heritage
Coalition. This year he will receive the Kiphuth Fellowship Award from Yale University.
Mr. Villella was born in Bayside, New York in 1936. He entered the School of American
Ballet at age ten but interrupted his dance training to complete academic studies.
A graduate of the New York Maritime Academy, he obtained a B.S. in marine transportation,
lettered in baseball, and was a championship boxer.
He returned to SAB following graduation in 1955, and in 1957 was invited to join
the New York City Ballet, where he was quickly promoted to Soloist (1958), and
then to Principal Dancer (1960). Mr. Villella originated many roles in the New
York City Ballet repertoire, among them Tarantella, the "Rubies" section
of Jewels, and the role of Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Perhaps his most
famous role was in the 1960 revival of Balanchine's 1929 masterpiece, Prodigal
Mr. Villella was the first American male dancer to perform with the Royal Danish
Ballet, and the only American ever to be asked to dance an encore at the Bolshoi
Theater in Moscow. He danced for President Kennedy's inaugural and for Presidents
Johnson, Nixon and Ford. He was producer/director for the PBS series "Dance
in America" for one and a-half years, and in 1975 won an Emmy Award for his
CBS television production of "Harlequinade".
Mr. Villella has a son, Roddy, and two daughters, Lauren and Crista Francesca.
He and his wife, Linda, a former Olympic figure skater, reside in Miami Beach.
The University of Pittsburgh Press reissued Edward Villella's 1992 autobiography,
Prodigal Son: Dancing for Balanchine in a World of Pain and Magic, written with
Larry Kaplan, in March 1998.