Melissa Villarreal - Executive Artistic Director
Began dancing under the direction of Rodolfo Mendez at the age of 14, with Ballet East Dance Company. Throughout her years as a performer with Ballet East, Ms. Villarreal had the opportunity to work with various talented and notable local, national, and international choreographers such as Fred Benjamin, Max Luna III, Regina Larkin, Carmen De Lavallade, Bruce Wood, Hope Boykin, Sabrina Madison-Cannon, Eugene Slavin, Stephen Mills, Jason Ansara Brooks, Andrea Ariel, Toni Bravo, Andrea Beckham, Lyn Wiltshire, Gina Patterson, Eric Midgley, and Danny Herman to name a few. In June 1997, July 1998, and July 2000, Ms. Villarreal attended master classes in New York through scholarships awarded by Regina Larkin, Artistic Director of the Joyce Trisler Danscompany.
In 1996, Villarreal became the Assistant Artistic Director, resident choreographer, and teacher of Ballet East Dance Company, and in 2010 - the Associate Artistic Director. She has set over 35 original works on the company. Her first work; "And God Created Woman", was premiered in December 1997. She has been invited as a guest choreographer for Tapestry's Vision In Rhythm, Paramount Theater's Summer Youth Project, East Side Memorial High School's Drill Team, Nudo Piedi Contemporary Dance Company, UpRise! Productions, and Proyecto Teatro. Ms. Villarreal's collaborative and independent works have been featured at the Annual National Spitfest, The Hot September Flurries, Frontera Fest, Zilker Park's Trail of Lights, Austin Dance Fest, and the Paramount Theater in Austin. Her 1999's choreography, "Liquid Diamonds", was commissioned by the Muse Project and performed in Hollywood, California. Her choreography for the collaborative production of “Ella”, with Proyecto Teatro, was nominated for best choreography by the B. Iden Payne awards in 2017. In March 2018, an excerpt of her recent work, “Going at the Stop” was selected for the ModArts Dance Collective Thread Festival and performed at Dixon Place Theater in NYC. An original Ballet East docu-film which she co-producted and directed, “Lightworkers” premiered in April of 2022. In November of 2020, she collaborated with Ashwell Clinic to choreograph a video campaign to raise awareness of HIV resilience. This video will premiere June 10, 2022 at The Paramount prior to the movie screening of “Paris is Burning”, in celebration of Pride Month in Austin, Texas.
As a guest teacher she has been invited to teach workshops and master classes for St. Edward's University Ballet Folklorico and Ballet Afrique in Austin; and Nudo Piedi Contemporary Dance Company in Laredo, Texas. She has trained, taught, and mentored dancers for over 30 years. Her dance protégé, Juan Pablo Flores received a nomination nod from the 2012 Austin's Critic Table Awards for her 2012 work of "Engulfing Addiction", which she choreographed and directed. Ms. Villarreal is also the Associate Vice President of Community Engagement for Southwest Key Programs. For 13 years, she has led community programming, events, and productions through multi-arts genres of Ballet Folklorico, Mariachi, Bilingual Theater, Spoken Word, and Orchestra. Her role of nurturing community partnerships has led to the opening of the Victor R. Garza Community Center in Austin, Texas, where she has developed cultural arts, health and wellness, and continuing education programming for youth and adults, as well as community events in California, Arizona, and the greater Texas areas of Houston, San Antonio, and Brownsville. An active arts advocate, Ms. Villarreal serves as a catalyst for artists and develops opportunities and programming in providing equitable access to the arts for underserved populations.
In May 2015, Ms. Villarreal branched out and created her 501c3, Lotus Contemporary Performing Arts, while still providing support to Ballet East. In May 2019, Mr. Mendez personally asked Villarreal to continue the work of Ballet East Dance Company, which she humbly accepted. She rejoined BE as Executive Artistic Director and continues to honor the committment and mission of Mr. Mendez's work of bringing arts to the community and the community to the arts.
Additional key roles she holds is Board Chair of LULAC National Educational Learning Service Centers, Deputy Director of LULAC District 12, Vice President of the East Austin Lion's Club, and Board of Directors for Sana Yoga . In Spring 2010 and 2012, she was nominated by Southwest Key for the Ballet Austin Guild's "Women On Their Toes Award", due to her extensive commitment and dedication of services to the East Austin Community through the arts. In December 2015, Ms. Villarreal received the Southwest Key Programs “Angel Award” for her dedication to the arts in East Austin.