Published: Sep 04, 2012 11:05 AM EDT

MIAMI (AP) - The founder and artistic director of Miami City Ballet is leaving the company sooner than he had planned.
    
Edward Villella had planned to stay with the dance troupe through the end of its 2012-2013 season in April. Ballet officials announced Tuesday that Villella had decided to leave the company he founded in 1986.
    
Officials say Villella "had given the matter a great deal of thought" and decided with the company's executive board to speed up the transition to new leadership.
    
The Cuban-born dancer Lourdes Lopez was set to succeed Villella as artistic director at the season's end. Ballet officials say Lourdes now takes over immediately.
    
Lourdes is currently the director of the New York dance company Morphoses.
    
Villella was a star at the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)