Farrell and Villella are as different as were their respective careers with City Ballet. Farrell was Mr. B.'s favorite in the last two decades of his life — the ultimate insider who benefited, and suffered, from his devoted attention. Known for taking risks and an inherent musicality, Farrell will always be held up as a paragon of Balanchine technique. But Villella, an athletic Italian American kid from Queens, always saw himself as an outsider. It didn't help that he refused to play by the Balanchine rules, often studying with outside teachers and freelancing here and abroad. All along, he sought to broaden the appeal of ballet and redefine what a classical male dancer can be. Long retired from dancing themselves, Farrell and Villella now nurture their own authoritative outposts of Balanchine style and repertoire for the next generation.
On Saturday and Sunday, October 18 and 19, Miami City Ballet, which Villella founded in 1986, presents an all-Stravinsky program, underlining the dynamic collaboration between Stravinsky and Balanchine that began in 1926 and flourished throughout their lives. Canons of Balanchine neoclassicism — Apollo (1928) and Agon (1957), essentially plotless ballets with spare costumes and sets — pulse with spiky toe work, leggy extensions, and intricate partnering. The Agon pas de deux alone is worth the price of a ticket.