Sep 05, 2012

By Scott Walker

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A ballet legend is abruptly leaving the company he led to international recognition.

Edward Villella is stepping down as artistic director of the Miami City Ballet effective immediately.

The former New York City Ballet star founded the Miami Beach-based dance company in 1986. It had already been announced that the 75-year-old would retire after next season.

The company says he is leaving to speed the transition to new leadership. But one trustee says he was forced out by members of the Executive after a year of financial struggles and management shake-ups.

The one-time protege of George Ballanchine planes to return to New York, where he was born, to pursue other opportunities in dance.

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