MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The retiring artistic director and founder of the Miami City Ballet has left sooner than expected.

Last September, Edward Villella announced that he planned to leave the dance company that he founded in 1986. The plan was to have Villella stay through the 2012-2013 season which ends next April.

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On Tuesday, Villella said that he was “confident the future of the company, the dancers and the school was secure and bright,” and decided to leave immediately.

Villella said he had given the matter a great deal of thought, and over the weekend he and the MCB Board leadership decided it was in the best interest of the company to speed the transition to the newly appointed artistic director. Lourdes Lopez, previously named to succeed Villella, is in place to assume responsibility.

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“Leaving early was not an easy decision,” said Villella. “I have always been committed to preserving the legacy of the Miami City Ballet and its stellar international reputation. This Company is in excellent hands and I am excited about its future.”

Lopez, who is currently the director of the New York dance company Morphoses, will take over immediately.

For Lopez, the new job is also a homecoming.

Born in Cuba in 1958, Lopez was raised in Miami by her parents along with two sisters. She started taking ballet lessons at the age of five, on the recommendation of a doctor, and went to New York at the age of ten on a full scholarship to the Joffrey School.

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Lourdes continued her training at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, and in Miami. At fourteen, she moved to New York permanently to devote herself to full-time studies at SAB, and shortly after her sixteenth birthday, she joined the New York City Ballet.