Vincent Orlando, a choreographer who taught dance and established a ballet company in Huntington, died Friday morning at Hilaire Rehab & Nursing after a four-month illness. He was 83.
A Bronx-born protege of Andre Eglevsky, who founded Long Island’s Eglevsky Ballet Company, Orlando performed with his mentor on a live “Bell Telephone Hour” telecast in 1959 and was invited to join the New York City Ballet. But he chose instead to dance, choreograph and teach in Huntington where, he said, he could enjoy artistic freedom.
In 1961, he established the Orlando Ballet Company in an early 19th century house at West Shore Road and Mill Dam Road that he purchased with his first wife, Betty. The company’s young dancers lived in the house with the Orlandos, who became the subject of a 1979 “Reasoner Report” documentary by Harry Reasoner on ABC. The documentary, “The Joy of Reaching,” won an Emmy Award. The title came from Orlando’s words: “It’s not having the company that’s important. It’s creating a company. It’s not the completion of it, but the joy in reaching for it.”
Through his relationship with the Huntington Arts Council, the Orlando Ballet Company performed in Heckscher Park in the Summer Arts Festival and he invited such ballet stars as Suzanne Farrell and Edward Villella to perform as well.
Betty, who costumed her husband’s ballet company, died in 1981. Shortly thereafter, their home was destroyed by fire and within a year the company dissolved.
But Orlando kept teaching. For 28 years, he led the Values Through the Arts in Education program in the Northport school district and in 1986 established Orlando Dance & Exercise Inc. with his second wife, Kate Ciannella.
In 2005, he created his final ballet, “In Search,” performed at the Clark Studio Theater in Lincoln Center. In a 2009 Long Island Dance Consortium tribute to him at the Long Island High School for the Arts, dancers from the Dance Theatre of Harlem performed his ballet, “Albinoni Pas de Deux.”
Orlando is survived by his wife, Kate.
Grave-site services will be private.