Miami City Ballet's Founder and Director Edward Villella Announces Retirement

Like some of the most iconic figures in sports and performing arts history before him, Edward Villella, founder and director of Miami City Ballet, announced Thursday that he was leaving the company just as it had reached the pinnacle of success in its more than quarter century of existence.

First reported in the Miami Herald, the MCB later confirmed the news in a statement on its website saying that Villella would be departing at the end of the 2012-2013 season. Although it was inevitable that Villella would some day be replaced, he started the company in 1986 and is 74 years old, the timing is surprising considering the company just returned from what is probably its most successful tour ever in Europe.

The MCB spent three weeks this summer in Europe for the Les Etés de

Danse Festival, performing 14 ballets at Paris's Théâtre du Châtelet,

and earning rave reviews from crowds and critics, alike. In a statement

released on the MCB website, Villella said he chose now to announce the

retirement so that the company could use the Paris success to transition

into new leadership in the near future. "My plan is to build a bridge

upon the enormous success we had in Paris, so that our Board of Trustees

and South Florida communities can go the next step when I depart in two


He went on to say that the success in Europe represented the most

memorable moment of his career, along with a performance in Russia

during the height of the Cold War when he was still a dancer and was

embraced by the Soviet crowd and called out for an unprecedented encore.

"The second moment came this past July in Paris when Miami City Ballet

made its debut in a three-week season at the famed Théâtre du Châtelet. 

This time it was my dancers who received standing ovations and a wildly

enthusiastic response from the Parisian audiences. I couldn't have been

more proud of their accomplishments."

Villella had a wildly successful career as a principal dancer with the

New York City Ballet in the 1960s and 1970s before coming south to Miami

to form the MCB in the mid-1980s. In just over 25 years the company has

grown, even with some early setbacks, to become among the

most recognized in the country.

Ron Esserman, Interim President of Miami City Ballet's Board of

Trustees, had this to say about Villella's departure:" "As we all know,

Edward has had an extraordinary success. From its modest beginnings -

nineteen dancers in a storefront on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach and a

budget of one million dollars - MCB has grown into a first-rank artistic

institution, recognized nationally and internationally as a leading

force in American ballet."

The company will use the time before Villella's departure to look for a

successor. "In order to preserve continuity of purpose and the great

legacy Edward is leaving us with, we are beginning the search for his

successor. We can only hope that we manage to find someone worthy to

fill his shoes," said Esserman.

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