From Publishers Weekly
An acclaimed New York City Ballet dancer of the 1960s and '70s, Miami City Ballet founding artistic director Villella has always labored in the shadow of two stern fathers--his own and choreographer George Balanchine. His autobiography, coauthored with Kaplan (collaborator with Merrill Ashley on Dancing For Balanchine ), offers a welcome addition to Balanchine chronicles; it could also be considered a dual biography of the dancer and his difficult mentor. Growing up in working-class Queens, New York, the young Villella played sandlot baseball, brawled and boxed, finding his vocation in dance only by chance. He trained at the School of American Ballet, then spent most of his NYCB career "on the outs with Mr. B."306 Yet their perennial conflicts somehow won Villella's enduring loyalty to the choreographer. And although the narrative is frank, fair, earthy, direct, its peculiar perspective of the dancer as a forgiving underdog superstar gives the story needed bite. Most valuable are Villella's reflections on the ballets Balanchine created on him.stet/MM A true prodigal, Villella emerges triumphant from Balanchine's unique academy of hard knocks. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Villella was a star among stars, the athletic all-American boy of the New York City Ballet from the late 1950's through the 70's. His career spanned ``a golden age of ballet, an amazing era in which George Balanchine single-handedly transformed the art. I watched him do it. I was part of it all.'' Villella's account of those years is as straightforward and forthright as this dancer himself. Villella followed his sister into ballet classes at age nine- -risky business for a boy in Bayside, Queens. A year later, he was accepted into the School of American Ballet, NYCB's training ground. Villella went on to spend his entire performing career with NYCB and Balanchine. At his parents' insistence, he left dance for four years to complete a bachelor's degree--a hiatus that had physical ramifications for the rest of his career. However, those years ``gave me another perspective on dancing and kept me from becoming too ascetic and pretentious.'' And certainly Villella held himself apart from most of the company; without rancor, he additionally attributes this to his short stature (5`8'') and consequent need to fight for new roles, his heterosexuality, and his eternally difficult relationship with Balanchine. The two never had an open, relaxed relationship: ``I was unusually tongue-tied around him....He made me uncomfortable because he was so sure of himself and his art.'' Villella's decision not to take Balanchine's famous--and peculiar--classes because he found them physically destructive further distanced him: ``Until his dying day I don't think he forgave me for not praying at his altar.'' There are plenty of sidelights here as well: tales of tours, other dancers, company intrigues. And Villella gives a complete account of his devastating, career-ending injuries, as well as of how he found his way to be the phenomenally successful artistic director of the Miami City Ballet. Throughout, Villella appears as his immensely talented, intelligent, self-absorbed, and opinionated self: a cleareyed account of a most remarkable career in a remarkable time. (Thirty- two pages of b&w photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.