Navarro, ITNY humbled by ballet legend VillellaFamed American dancer inspires all in home season's 'Reveries'
Edward Villella is the most famous American ballet dancer of his time, possibly of all time. And I am sure I knew this when I studied dance in college. I must have. But it wasnʼt until now, until being cast as the "muse" in his new on-ice ballet, Reveries, that I have fully come to understand the greatness that is Edward Villella.
Villella was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and danced under the
direction of the famous choreographer, George Balanchine. Villella was the first American male dancer to appear with the Royal Danish Ballet and was the only American ever asked to dance an encore at the Bolshoi Theatre. He is a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts. In short, he is a ballet god.
Last year, Edward moved back to New York City after years directing the Miami City Ballet. This week, he finds himself in the fairly familiar world of ice skating -- he has collaborated with Dick Button and Dorothy Hamill, and is married to Olympic figure skater Linda Carbonetto -- as he premieres Reveries at the Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY) home season.
Reveries tells a story that is common to ballet: the story of unattainable love. Poet and muse. Brent Bommentre and I have the great honor of playing these roles.
The piece was pre-produced in New Jersey with Ice Theatre artistic director Douglas
Webster and company members Sinead Kerr and John Kerr. The piece was then set on the cast during the three-week residency in Sun Valley, Idaho.
During the residency, while Doug taught the other skaters their steps, Brent and I were given the pre-production video from which to learn our steps. Then, later in the day, Brent and I would work separately on our duets with Edward.
During one of these private sessions, Edward asked me, "Why are you turning away from Brent there?"
Confused, I quickly answered, "Because those are my steps." I had video footage to
prove it if he thought I was lying.
"Yes, but why?" he continued.
Oh. "I donʼt know."
Edward smiled. "Letʼs find out."
And it was like this as we continued working on Reveries; Edward investigated each
moment to show us how it furthered the overall story. He didnʼt care so much about the skating steps; he was invested in the intention of the movement. He told us, "You are having a conversation."
Because of this experience, Brent and I, along with all the skaters, were
invited to peer into this deep and rich world that is ballet. Itʼs a historic world and itʼs very humbling. Edward throws around names like Balanchine, Jerome Robbins
and Igor Stravinsky like I might talk about what I ate for breakfast.
And yet, while I stand with my jaw dropped at the legacy that is Edward Villella, he turns around and sincerely thanks all the skaters for "being willing participants" in his work. He is an incredibly unpretentious man, so much so that Brent accidentally began calling him "Ed."
You can come see Reveries at the Ice Theatre of New York home season Oct.
24-26 at Sky Rink Chelsea Piers in New York City, as well as all the other ITNY
works I cannot recommend enough.
You will probably see Edward there too, fighting off the cold rink with a warm smile, humbly nodding his head to the music.