Edward Villella, a former New York City Ballet principal dancer and founder of the Miami City Ballet, will be coming back to Saratoga this summer to attend the New York City Ballet’s gala Saturday, July 13.
The gala, a fundraiser to support the ballet’s Saratoga season, will feature a performance of George Balanchine’s “Rubies,” for which Villella originated the lead role in 1967 while at the New York City Ballet.
“Edward Villella was an American ballet superstar. A magnetic presence on the New York City Ballet stage during the Balanchine era, his powerful performances were a game-changer for male dancers,” Marcia White, executive director of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, said in a news release. “Even after retiring from the stage, he continued to be a trailblazer, investing his vision and energy into founding and building Miami City Ballet into one of the premier ballet companies in the world.”
Villella founded the Miami City Ballet in 1985 and served as its director until 2012. The company is now headed by Lourdes Lopez, another former New York City Ballet principal dancer.
Villella, who performed at SPAC with the New York City Ballet in the 1960s and ’70s, said he’s looking forward to returning to Saratoga.
“The summers I spent dancing with New York City Ballet at SPAC are some of the fondest from my dancing career,” he said in the news release. “SPAC’s beautiful setting can be inspiring for a dancer, and it certainly was for me.”
Villella and former New York City Ballet dancer Patricia McBride originated the lead roles in “Rubies,” the second movement of the full-length ballet “Jewels.” McBride, now associate artistic director for the North Carolina Dance Theatre, is serving as honorary chairwoman of the gala and will send a message to be read onstage.
Villella trained with the New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet and in 1957 was invited to join the New York City Ballet. Three years later, he was a principal dancer. He originated the male lead in many of the group’s major works, including “Tarantella,” “Symphony in Three Movements,” “Dances at a Gathering” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
A National Medal of Arts recipient and Kennedy Center Honors selection, Villella was inducted into the National Museum of Dance Hall of Fame in 2009.
The gala is SPAC’s primary fundraiser for the New York City Ballet’s local residency, now in its 48th season. The gala features a special, one-time-only program performed by the New York City Ballet, post-show fireworks and two spectacular parties taking place simultaneously: a black-tie Hall of Springs reception and dinner and an outdoor lawn party featuring live music and dancing, picnic and costume contests.
Along with “Rubies,” the night’s program will include the Saratoga premieres of Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins’ new ballet, “Bal de Couture,” featuring original costume designs by Valentino; Christopher Wheeldon’s pas de deux, “This Bitter Earth;” and Jerome Robbins’ “West Side Story Suite.”
Information and tickets to the gala are available at http://spac.org, at SPAC’s box office on Route 50 or by calling 584-9330.