IN BALANCHINE’S CLASSROOM In-Person Q&A with Filmmaker Connie Hochman & Balanchine Dancer Edward Villella
Saturday, September 18, 6:30 show
Moderated by Deborah Kaufman of Words On Dance
Connie Hochman was a professional ballet dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet where she performed many Balanchine masterworks. In 2007, Connie began a series of interviews with former Balanchine dancers – ninety in all – to explore the phenomenon of Balanchine’s classroom. Why did he teach and not just choreograph? What did he teach? How did he teach? How did his daily class relate to his ballets? Their remembrances of his unorthodox methods and transformative teaching form the basis of IN BALANCHINE’S CLASSROOM. In addition to the oral histories, Connie launched an extensive and painstaking search for visuals that would bring the story to life. Over years, she discovered a trove of neverbefore- seen archival footage of Balanchine in America. With approval from The George Balanchine Trust, Connie traveled around the country and to Europe to film Balanchine’s former dancers staging his ballets, teaching class, and passing on their knowledge to today’s generation. Photo © Donna Mueller Photography.
Edward Villella is regarded as one of America’s greatest male dancers. His performances exuded virility, grace, and bravura technique. He changed the way men danced in America as well as the way male dancers were perceived. A kid from Queens, NY, one day he watched his sister’s ballet class and decided it was for him. He entered Balanchine’s School of American Ballet at ten but was forced to interrupt his dance training to complete academic studies. A graduate of the New York Maritime Academy, he obtained a B.S. in Marine Transportation and was a championship boxer. He returned to ballet training and in 1957 was invited to join Balanchine’s New York City Ballet. He was promoted Principal Dancer in 1960. Mr. Villella was the original male lead in many iconic Balanchine ballets, including Tarantella, Rubies / Jewels, Harlequinade, Symphony in Three Movements, Bugaku, Tarantella, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon), and perhaps most famously in the 1960 revival of Prodigal Son. Upon retirement from the stage, Villella taught and guided several companies, including Ballet Oklahoma, Eglevsky Ballet, and New Jersey Ballet. In 1986 he became the Founding Artistic Director of Miami City Ballet. Within a decade he lead the company to international acclaim.
Deborah Kaufman, Founding Producer of Words On Dance, since 1994, has presented live onstage conversations and screenings with eminent dance artists. A hallmark of programming is the screening of rare film clips to highlight such brilliant careers. Legendary artists from ballet to Broadway have embraced this national platform to share their passion and experience. The roster of artists includes Balanchine proteges Violette Verdy, Edward Villella, Maria Tallchief, Merrill Ashley, Peter Martins, Allegra Kent, and Helgi Tomasson. Others who have graced the stage include Cynthia Gregory, Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, Christopher Wheeldon, Martine Van Hamel and Michael Smuin. In 2018, with funding from the Jerome Robbins Foundation, Deborah produced an evening at the Paley Center for Media, in Beverly Hills celebrating the film, West Side Story, featuring live appearances by Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Russ Tamblyn, and Eliot Feld, hosted by Rob Marshall. Multi Tony winning choreographer/director Andy Blankenbuehler was a guest artist in 2019. Currently, Deborah is an associate producer for select episodes of Conversations with Megan, on the Megan Fairchild You Tube channel.
For over 25 years, Words On Dance has been at the forefront of producing live dance documentary programming, and in 2012 received the Isadora Duncan Award for sustained achievement.