Peggy Willis-Aarnio

Peggy Willis-Aarnio Biography

Peggy Willis-Aarnio (born January 12, 1948) is an American choreographer, historian, author and teacher of classical ballet. She was a professional dancer in the early 1970s with the Ft. Worth Ballet in Fort Worth, Texas. She was the first American ballet teacher to be sanctioned as a "Certified Practitioner and Teacher of the Teaching Method of Classical Ballet"? by the Vaganova Academy in Saint Petersburg, Russia.


Peggy Willis-Aarnio is a Professor Emeritus and former head of the Dance Program in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. She retired from active teaching after thirty-one years, but remains on the Graduate Faculty. She received her B.F.A. and her M.F.A. Degrees from Texas Christian University in 1970 and 1972.

She studied 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. In 2002, she received her Ph.D. from Mellon University.

Peggy Willis-Aarnio choreographed more than 80 original ballets, including Dracula: The Ballet which aired on PBS in 1982. She created over 70 original ballets and modern ballet works for Texas Tech University students. She also created two Classical Ballets for The Saint-Petersburg State and Academic Ballet (under the direction of Askold Makarov) and their guest soloist, Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Galina Mezentseva. She created the Diamond Ballet in 1999 for the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre of Konstantin Tatchkine. Other works by Peggy Willis-Aarnio are, Beethoven: A Classical Inspiration (2000) The Bluegrass Fantasy (2005) and The Seven Last Words of Christ (2007) (based on the production by Iris Hensley) choreographed for the Saint-Petersburg Classic Ballet Theatre of Marina Medvetskaya. Willis-Aarnio"?s writings include, Agrippina Vaganova (1879-1951) : her place in the history of ballet and her impact on the future of classical dance, published in 2002 and the How to Teach Classical Ballet Series. She also wrote, directed and supervised the series, Music for the Classical Ballet Lesson with Ludmilla Petrovna Vlasenko as pianist and wrote,directed and narrated the video series, Classical Ballet Lesson which featured Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Galina Mezentseva.

Early life

Peggy Willis-Aarnio was born in Tampa, Florida. Her mother was Margaret Spangler Marie Dozier, one of 11 children, a naturally gifted musician and professional model in New York and Marshall Fields in Chicago. She had a degree in Business. Her (step) father, Walter H. Dozier, was a Naval Officer (CWO4). He was the Chief Pay Clerk for the entire naval fleet for NATO. The family moved to Naples, Italy, where her mother enrolled her at the age of 8 and her sister Sheila, at age 6, in ballet lessons with Peggy Burns, who had been trained at the Sadler Wells in London. Willis-Aarnio returned to Florida when her father was stationed at the Navy Mine Defense Laboratory. Her mother then enrolled her at the Virginia Sweet School of Dance where she drove Peggy and Sheila four times a week to study all forms of dance: ballet, jazz, tap, acrobatics, Spanish and hula. While at the Virginia Sweet School, Willis-Aarnio participated in seven years of musical stage-type productions written by for Broadway dancer and writer John Sweet (husband of Virginia Sweet). While under the tutelage of Virginia Sweet, she also learned to ice skate. Even though self-taught, Willis-Aarnio won the Southern United States Ballroom Championship in 1964, in the Waltz, Fox Trot and Swing, at the Dinkle Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, with her partner, Marvin Elmore. She also was a performing member of the Young's Water Thrill Show where she performed ballet on water skis.

During her years at Bay High School, as well as being a member of several clubs, she held the office of president of the drama club, and secretary of her junior class. She also won second place in the Panama City Beauty Pageant, and first place for the homecoming float that she and her dance partner, Marvin Elmore, designed and built. It was a huge replica of the Bay High School mascot, "The Tornado".

After graduation from Bay High School in 1966, Willis-Aarnio attended Texas Christian University, where she was invited to perform in the American Festival in Great Britain. During the summers of 1969, 1970 and 1971, she and her sister Sheila were hired as performers at Mr. Koplin's Tombstone Territory on Panama City Beach. During her last summer there, when she was 21 years old, Peggy was hired as director and choreographer. She then had the opportunity to write, direct, choreograph and produce Spanish, Mexican and western type entertainment shows for Tombstone, thus beginning her professional career as a choreographer and director. In the summer of 1972, she received an invitation to join the faculty at Texas Tech University as "assistant professor". Willis-Aarnio's sister Sheila went on to a career in dance, performing professionally with Iris Hensley in Marietta, Georgia (now the Georgia Ballet), and also with the Pittsburgh Dance Alloy. Sheila also studied and prepared for a second career in design while she was living in Pittsburgh, and earned a Degree in Design from the Pittsburgh Design Institute.

Personal life

Peggy Willis-Aarnio is married to Paul Aarnio, son of the internationally renowned architect, Reino Aarnio and Sylvia (Bachman) Aarnio, Coloratura Soprano and graduate of the Juilliard School of Music. Paul Aarnio holds a Bachelor"?s of Architecture degree (with honors), from Cornell University and is a retired Air force pilot.

Awards and honors

Peggy Willis-Aarnio received Texas Christian University"?s Alfie Special Achievement Award for her choreography in Gilbert and Sullivan"?s ballad operetta,"Patience."? In 1998, she received the "Woman of Excellence Award in the Arts" from the YWCA, City of Lubbock, Texas. She holds the honor of being the first American to choreograph a new classical ballet work for several top Russian Companies in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She was an honorary member and North American representative of the Society of Russian Style Ballet. Peggy Willis-Aarnio's ballet company, The Willis Ballet, toured England in 1987 and performed for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Peggy_Willis-Aarnio" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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