Willis-Aarnio, Peggy

About the author:. Professor Peggy Willis-Aarnio is a Full Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and a former soloist with the Fort Worth Ballet in Fort Worth, Texas. She received her B.F.A. and her M.F.A. Degrees from Texas Christian University in 1970 and 1972, respectively. From 1968 to 1971, she performed in over 2800 performances in a summer theatre in Florida. She has continued her professional development with a series of post-graduate pedagogical studies with John Barker of New York, and Valentina Roumiantseva of the Vaganova Ballet Academy of Saint-Petersburg, Russia. In 1992, she received an invitation to complete her (advanced level) pedagogical studies in Teaching Method at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, where she became the first American Ballet Teacher to be sanctioned as a “Certified Practitioner and Teacher of the Teaching Method of Classical Ballet.”

She is a prolific choreographer with over 60 original ballet works to her credit. Her full-length, original ballet, “Dracula – the ballet” appeared on U.S. Public Television in 1982. In the last seven years, in addition to over fifteen original ballet and modern ballet works created for her students’ performances at Texas Tech, she also has had the distinction of creating three, major new Classical Ballet works for two of the major Classical Ballet Companies of (Saint-Petersburg) Russia . The first two, Rhapsody on a Love Theme – 1993 - (to the music of Rachmaninov’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini”) and Remember When – 1996 - (to a medley of the music of George Gershwin) were created for The Saint-Petersburg (State and Academic) Ballet and their guest soloist, Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Galina Mezentseva, and have been performed over 140 times, all over the world. The most recent work, The Diamond Ballet – 1999 – (to the music of Karl Jenkins “Paladio” [a Concerto Grosso in three movements]), has been created for the Saint-Petersburg Ballet Theatre (of Konstantin Tatchkine), and is a celebration of the purity and power of Classical Ballet to stir the human spirit. It is a fitting new contribution to the repertoire of Classical Ballet, as we go forth into the new millennium. Its world premiere was in the U.S. on 6 October 1999 and has been performed over 35 times in North America since then.

Professor Willis-Aarnio is also the Author, Director and Narrator of the unique and valuable video reference work on the (Russian) Teaching Method of Classical Ballet, Classical Ballet Lesson (In six Volumes, first through sixth class). The series is currently distributed worldwide and is in high demand by teachers and students of Classical Ballet. The demonstration lessons are performed by Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Galina Mezentseva (Formerly of the Kirov Ballet), and two of Prof. Willis-Aarnio’s students, and is considered by many of her peers as the definitive visual reference work on the Teaching Method of Classical Ballet.

She is also the author and director of a Music CD Series (in eight volumes, classes 1 through 8) entitled “Music for the Classical Ballet Lesson.” For this project, she selected Ludmilla P. Vlasenko, an award-winning pianist and former accompanist at the Vaganova Ballet Academy, and one of the few pianists in the world specifically trained as an accompanist for the Classical Ballet Lesson, to create a totally unique music collection, specifically for use with the (Russian) Classical Ballet Syllabus. This series, also is distributed world-wide, and has received accolades from all classes of users.

Professor Willis-Aarnio is also the Director and senior teacher of The Conservatory of Classical Ballet, a school that she founded in 1979 specifically for the purpose of providing an affordable opportunity for local children, regardless of family circumstances or background, to have access to true Classical Ballet Instruction. The School celebrated its Twentieth Anniversary in 1999. In 1983, a group of local friends formed a non-profit 501 C Corporation, The Willis Ballet (so named to honor her for her achievements in teaching and choreography), to give her the support structure to continue to pursue her artistic vision, as stated in the Corporate Charter: “To Preserve the Complete Tradition of Classical Ballet.”. Her official title became “Artistic Director/Choreographer,” a post she has held ever since. The Willis Ballet, working through the Conservatory (its official school) and in concert with The Texas Tech Department of Theatre and Dance, has expanded the performing opportunities for Tech and local Ballet Students, and brought true Classical Ballet performances to Lubbock and other ballet audiences all over North America, and even to the United Kingdom (1987).

Professor Peggy Willis-Aarnio has recently been honored by the Society of Russian Style Ballet (President, Gabriella Komleva, Honorary Chair, Anna Lendrum), Headquartered in London, England. The Society is an international examining body for promoting teaching and performing excellence in ballet. She was accepted to the Society as an honorary member, and designated as the Society’s North American Representative and their newest board examiner. As the North American Representative of the Society, she is actively engaged in building a teacher/school network in North America, and conducting teacher training courses for any (and all) interested parties.

Agrippina Vaganova (1879-1951) Her Place in the History of Ballet and Her Impact on the Future of Classical Dance
2002 0-7734-7074-3
In addition to biographical information on Agrippina Vaganova, this book describes and discusses where the teaching method came from, and how Vaganova took this information and distilled it to its essence and then organized it in a codified, rational way so that the method could be consistently and accurately taught. Also available is an accompanying set of 8 videotapes. 1-3 Beginning Level of Classical Ballet Lesson; 4-6 Intermediate Level of Classical Ballet Lesson; 7-8 Advanced Level of Classical Ballet Lesson ($99.95 for the set) Telephone (716) 754-2788 or email sales@mellenpress.com to place your order.

Video Tapes: Agrippina Vaganova (1879-1951) - Her Place in the History of Ballet and Her Impact on the Future of Classical Dance (videotapes)
2002 0-7734-4890-X
An accompanying set of 8 videotapes. 1-3 Beginning Level of Classical Ballet Lesson; 4-6 Intermediate Level of Classical Ballet Lesson; 7-8 Advanced Level of Classical Ballet Lesson ($99.95 for the set) Telephone (716) 754-2788 or email sales@mellenpress.com to place your order.