We Stood in Awe of the Legendary Edward Villella

We welcomed Edward Villella, the greatest male classical ballet dancer America has produced to date, back to South Florida to pay tribute to his legendary career as dancer, choreographer, and Founder and long-time Artistic Director of Miami City Ballet. All in attendance were beyond thrilled to have Mr. Villella as our 2019 Icon of the Arts Honoree. Continuing with the theme of “The American Spirit,” we were extremely fortunate to have a troupe of brilliant young dancers presenting an original piece of performance art chronicling the birth and history of America’s very own dance art form…American Modern 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 in 2007.

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.

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.

The visiting artists included Brett Perry, Alex McBride, Ching Ching Wong, Adam Weinert, Lauren Edson, and John Michael Schert. These brilliant young dance artists took us on a journey beginning in the America of the 1930’s, guiding us through America’s desire to create an original art form that exemplifies the innovative American Spirit. Through multi-media and dance presentations, the dancers shared the narrative of how we got to where we are today and potentially where we are headed next. Learning the history of dance is a huge undertaking and takes years and years to master, but our hope is the audience walks away with a deeper and more knowledgeable understanding of a truly American dance form.

The ArtSage Alliance is an inter-generational and multi-cultural fine arts partnership of Venetian Arts Society, Nova Southeastern University and John Knox Village. Working together, we are laying the foundation for the most comprehensive world class fine arts experience to be found anywhere in the world. NSU and JKV are both known for their cutting-edge philosophies and for embracing diversity in our community. Personally, I cannot imagine a more important mission for effecting positive change in today’s world or a more profound legacy to leave for future generations.

There are no words to express our gratitude to the legendary Edward Villella for being our 2019 VAS Icon of the Arts Honoree. Mr. Villella showed the world an exciting new type of male ballet dancer. The new and revolutionary American male ballet dancer combined the soul of the master artist, an extraordinarily virile and athletic technique, and the brash stage presence that only could be realized by the American Spirit!
-Willie Riddle

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