Ballet icon Edward Villella celebrated his 75th birthday Saturday by celebrating his company, Miami City Ballet, and its latest achievement, an hour-long feature on the PBS Arts Fall Festival (it may be public, but it’s still national TV – catch it on Oct. 28). It was, of course, a fundraiser at MCB's studios on the Beach, across from the Bass, with dinner (including birthday cake, of course) and a viewing of the PBS film in the main rehearsal studio. The ballet recently announced that Villella would retire at the end of the 2012-2013 season, but if he was feeling nostalgic, he didn’t show it. While donors swarmed and schmoozed and dancers beamed, Villella sat at the head table, accepting one congratulation after another, his food getting cold on his plate. “I always say I need to bring a sandwich to these galas,” Villella said. After all these years as a ballet idol, after traveling the world with New York City Ballet, you can still hear Bayside, Queens in his voice. And he still loves dance and dancers best. “I’m not Miami City Ballet,” he said. “The board is not Miami City Ballet. These guys, the dancers – they’re Miami City Ballet.”
The dancers prove their identity with MCB’s first program Oct. 21 to 23 at the Arsht Center. The dances are goodies: Balanchine’s crackling Square Dance (homegirl Jeanette Delgado is a wonder in the lead), Jerome Robbins cool, not-quite-a-romance Afternoon of a Faun, Christopher Wheeldon’s sinuous Liturgy, and Twyla Tharp’s jam-on-it powerhouse In the Upper Room.
Edward Villella at his 75th birthday party. Photo: Tomas Loewy