The Willis Ballet

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Tributes for The Saint-Petersburg Classic Ballet of Marina Medvetskaya-click here

For our Artistic Director/Choreographer

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PARODY ON DANCE PROGRAM STANDOUT...The Fort Worth Ballet Association's now familiar new choreographer programs called "Choreographer's '71," this year, have never failed to bring at least one interesting work to the fore.  This year is no exception.  The find Saturday in Scott Theater was something called "Fantastical:  A Classical Fantasy" created by Peggy Willis, smartly danced by Annette Magill, Sheila Willis, Sandy Papillon, Marla Mann, Wayne Soulant, Richard Lane and Glen Martin.  It is a clever, gentle spoof of ballet, set to music by The Nice, whatever that may be.

Review by Leonard Eureka, Fort Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, May 2, 1971, Fort Worth, Texas

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CHOREOGRAPHIC SHOW IS WINNER...This year's "Choreographer's '71" is a winner...Peggy Willis' "Fantastical" was one of the shrewdest examples of parody art I have seen.

Review by Robert Douglass, Fort Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, May 3, 1971, Fort Worth, Texas

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TCU Produces Another Winner...choreographer Peggy Wilis's brisk numbers, it's time for operetta buffs to paraphrase the librettist:  "Oh, rapture!"

Review by Perry Stewart, Fort Worth Star Telegram, October 29, 1976, Fort Worth, Texas

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SHERIDAN'S RIDE...CHOREOGRAPHER PRAISED...I have left out yet another person new to the scene, who brings an awesome talent to the Tech Music Theatre.  She is Peggy Willis who designed the choreography and made a goodly number of Tech students dance as they have never done before.  It is hoped that Ms. Willis' talents can be extended to Lubbock Theatre Center as well next season, who knows what she is doing and how she does it!  It is a hot "bravo!" for this lady.

Review by Jack Sheridan, Lubbock Today, November 8, 1973, Lubbock, Texas

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SHERIDAN'S RIDE...The choreography is in the hands of the tested and true Peggy Willis, whose work is well known in dance circles.

Review by Jack Sheridan, West Texas Times, April 29, 1977, Lubbock, Texas

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"Texas Tech University is one of the leading universities of classical ballet in the United States...taught by Professor Peggy Willis, a more able and dedicated teacher could not be selected.  Professor Willis is honest about her work, efficient, loyal to the highest standards of the art...It is not by accident or silly tradition that the Russians have the finest training method for dancers; they have been at it for 200 years!"

Charles Dickson, 1975, Director of the Metropolitan Association of Dance, Inc. Maryland, USA

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"By comparison with our experiences at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., we feel Texas Tech has a rare jewel in Peggy Willis."

Robert Hamrin, Lubbock, Texas (1976)

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"The advantages of ballet training as a discipline for dance performance were evident in the excellence of her young dancers."

Claire Eyrich, review in the Fort Worth STAR-TELEGRAM  (1981)

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 "I think your production of Dracula: the ballet can compare favorable with the very best that PBS has to offer."

Maria Smith, KTXT-TV, Lubbock, Texas (1982)

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"Peggy is also a choreographer, having created about 50 ballets, but,  "Dracula: the ballet" which was performed on television throughout the U.S.A.---pretty much a feather in her cap---was her first whole evening's ballet creation."

Aulin Rasanen, UUSI SUOMI newspater, Helsinki, Finland (1984)

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"One of the most exciting groups we are hosting is the Willis Ballet from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas."

Albert Tate, Mayor of South Tyneside, England (1987)

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"In the summer of 1986, South Tyneside Council asked for advice about putting together an "All American Mardi Gras" for one of Britain's most economically deprived areas.  They were introduced to The Willis Ballet of Lubbock, Texas.  Their conncetion was a great success, leading to genuine community level cultural exchange."

British American Arts Association, London, England (1987)

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"I am very interested in finding out about your department's dance studies, particularly those of Peggy Willis-Aarnio, whose accomplished teaching of the Vaganova "syster" at Texas Tech I found out about, quite by accident, from a Lubbock resident who was in Moscow when I was, in december....I would very much appreciate if you could send me a brochure detailing the dance department and, particularly, any information about Dr. Aarnio's program.  Thank you very much for your help."

Letter to Dr. Norman Bert, Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, Texas Tech University from Sheila Gunter, January 29, 1996, Denton, Texas

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Our students enjoyed your master class at the University, thanks for letting them attend!

Letter from Desnee La Vigne, Ballet Lubbock, May 20, 1996, Lubbock, Texas

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I decided to commission Prof. Willis-Aarnio to create a new work for the Company, and I can say, that I, in my career that spans 50 years as an Artist and as an Artistice Director, have very rarely had the opportunity to work with an individual that was so highly focused and intense about her work, but still a true pleasure to work with because of her confident, even-tempered work style.  Also, her first work for me is really a crowning achievement in the technical mastery of a very complex piece of music ("Rhapsody on a Theme by Pagnani" by S. Rachmaninof) and her choreography beautifully reinforces the varied and complex quality of the music.  Her work as a choreographer give me, gives rise to the notion that the tradition has not only been passed to the next generation, but the world as well.  her work "Rhapsody on a Love Theme" is a credit to her skill and imagination and one that was well received at its premiere in St. Petersburg and it has now been performed by my company and Ms. Mezentseva over sixty times in the past two years.

Letter from Prof. Askold Makarov, February 12, 1996, Saint-Petersburg, Russia

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I have been meaning to thank you formally for over a year and it seems that now I have finally found the time.  I wanted to thank you and tell you how much I appreciate you.  I really admire you.  You are such an extraordinary woman and your passion, faith, and strength inspire me to be a better person and dancer.  I can't thank you enough for all that you have done.  I have learned so much from you, and can't wait to learn more in the future.  Sincerely, thank you.

 Becky Rowan, May 9, 1999, Lubbock, Texas

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