The Willis Ballet

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People Sister Company Willis Conservatory of Classical Ballet The Willis Ballet

A History

In Lubbock, Texas, home of Texas Tech University, where Professor Peggy Willis-Aarnio had taken the position of Professor of Classical Ballet, The Conservatory of Classical Ballet was formed in 1979 and the Peggy Willis Ballet Company of the Conservatory of Classical Ballet was formed in February, 1983.  The Peggy Willis Ballet Company (originally, a semi-professional performing company, now a professional performing company with its base, now, in Panama City Beach, Florida) had its premiere performance in the Spring of 1983 in Panama City, Florida, at the Marina Civic Center Theatre.  The Company's Lubbock, Texas premiere entitled "Ballet Extravaganza," was presented at the Civic Center Theatre in March of 1984, in celebration of Lubbock's 75th Anniversary.  To date, in addition to numerous performances in various University and Lubbock area theatres, the company has performed on tour in Texas, New Mexico, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, as well as on a very special Tour to England in 1987.

The Company repertoire includes: The full length productions of "Dracula, the Ballet," "Coppelia," and "Giselle," as well as productions of "Grand Pas de Quatre," "Pas de Trois," "Faust Variations," "Danse Brilliant," "Fantastical- a Classical Fantasy," "Texas pas de deux," "Classical Symphony," "Near the Nile," "Emotions," "The Blaydon Races Ballet," "Geistling," "Dementia Praecox," "Double Helix," " and the "All American Mardi Gras Ballet. "  Additional works include:  The Grand pas de deux from "Giselle" (2nd Act), "Don Quixote" pas de deux, "Sleeping Beauty" (Blue Bird), "Esmeralda," pas de six, "La Vivandiere," pas de six, and the "Diana and Acteon" pas de deux, among others.

In 1986, The Peggy Willis Ballet Company presented its production of "Coppelia" at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Theatre.  In 1987, the Company was invited to represent the United States at the "All American Mardi Gras Festival" in South Tyneside, UK.  A highlight of this trip, was an invitation to perform at a Festival performance for the benefit of the St. Johns Ambulance Brigade, held in Hyde Park, and attended by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," who were also the sponsors of this Charitable event.  In 1988, the Peggy Willis Ballet hosted and performed in the World Premiere of Valery Panov's "Giselle," starring the world-famous Prima Ballerina, Galina Panova, and featuring a special guest star, Natalia Krassovska (a former member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo), as Giselle's mother.  In 1991, the Peggy Willis Ballet Company presented "A Ballet Double Feature," which included a re-staging of Prof. Willis-Aarnio's 1981 production of "Dracula: the Ballet," and a "Ballet Gala Concert" featuring performances by seven, well-known Russian artists, headed up by the incomparable Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Galina Mezentseva.


Current Initiatives of The Willis Conservatory and The Peggy Willis Ballet Company

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The Willis Conservatory's goals include establishing both their own and the Peggy Willis Ballet Company's presences on the Worldwide Web; Continuing to expand video and music CD offerings and market penetration; expanding efforts, as the North American Representative of the Society of Russian Style Ballet, to encourage teachers to study 'The Teaching Method', to join the Society and to initiate examination programs both for their faculty and students; and, keeping our own school, The Willis Conservatory, as an example of high professional and artistic standards for others to follow, and includes the development of educational and entertainment products..  

The Willis Conservatory of Classical Ballet elected to expand its areas of interest to take a more direct role in the training of the future generations of Classical Ballet Teachers, as well as students at the Lubbock address and celebrated its twentieth year anniversary as a school in the Fall of 1999.  The Willis Conservatory and its official company, The Peggy Willis Ballet Company of the Conservatory of Classical Ballet, relocated to Panama City, Florida in the Fall of 2004 and continued to provide the highest quality ballet education and performances in the area and beyond to all students regardless of family background and means. 

The Willis Conservatory of Classical Ballet, in an attempt to facilitate the creation materials to support teacher's employing teaching method, formed the Willis Ballet Educational Video Library, as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Willis Conservatory of Classical Ballet, whose responsibility was to create, package and market a full range of educational and entertainment video products..  The Educational Video Library has, since its original conception, expanded its activities to include creating and distributing music products in cassette and CD form for use by ballet teachers.  This subsidiary now presides over an operation that distributes video and audio products worldwide, and is continually engaged in developing new educational products to help train and prepare teachers as well as to make their work easier.

1991 was a watershed year for the Peggy Willis Ballet Company, for this is when the Peggy Willis Ballet Company began to shift emphasis from a mostly regional entity supporting the Texas Tech Dance Program, to a national and an international focus, by beginning to produce International Ballet Tours of impeccable quality to inspire and uplift audiences all over North America.  

The initiative to expand performing and touring activities was encouraged by the dissolution of the old Soviet Union, which suddenly made the professional Russian Classical Ballet Companies accessible for foreign appearances. The decision was made to expand operations to include acting as an Impresario and Producer for North American performing tours of Russian Classical Ballet Companies.  The inspiration behind this decision was based on the old adage: “A Picture is worth a Thousand Words” as it relates to the Company's School Mission Statement (“To Preserve the Complete Tradition of Classical Ballet in education, teaching and performance”).  What better way to preserve the tradition and to inspire interest in all aspects of the art, then to show it to North American audiences in its finest incarnation, as performed by the Russian Companies that are heirs to the greatest achievements of Classical Ballet by people like Petipa, Ivanov, Johanssen, Perrot, Coralli, Fokine, Vaganova, just to name a few.  To date, the Peggy Willis Ballet Company of the Conservatory of Classical Ballet, respresented by the Gary Lindsey Artists Services of San Francisco,  has been responsible for producing over 400 successful performances by some of the most distinguished Russian ballet artists of this generation.  These performances have been produced, literally, in every corner of the U.S. and in many Canadian, Bermudan, Mexican, and Costa Rican venues as well, and has given over 500,000 people the opportunity to see Classical Ballet as it should be performed.  

 As of the retirement of Professor Peggy Willis-Aarnio in 2003, and the relocation of the Conservatory of Classical Ballet and the Peggy Willis Ballet Company, in 2004 to Panama City Beach, Florida, one of the most important goals became establishing the Conservatory of Classical Ballet and the Peggy Willis Ballet Company’s presence on the Worldwide Web, through a website called The Willis Ballet...honoring the life's work and career of Peggy Willis-Aarnio, and drawing attention to the wide ranging activities engaged in by both entities.  The Conservatory of Classical Ballet was renamed the Willis Conservatory of Classical Ballet in 2006 to emphasize the distinction between it and the Peggy Willis Ballet Company (the performing company).  The Willis Conservatory offers a full range of academic ballet offerings, to students from age 3 to Adult and continues to expand Video/DVD and Music CD products, and to offer a larger schedule for teacher's courses.  

The Peggy Willis Ballet Company has continued to produce International Ballet Tours of impeccable quality to inspire and uplift audiences all over North America and has added a fresh version of The Nutcracker, in addition to its Ballet Gala produced in various forms since 1994, making it possible for children in the performing venues all over North America to be able to experience first hand the excitement of working with some of the finest professional artist in the world.   

Finally, the Willis Conservatory of Classical Ballet, and our performing company, The Peggy Willis Ballet Company is able to present not only the finest education in ballet available, but also to provide examples of the high professional and artistic standards for our students and for others to strive towards.  

                                                            

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