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Ballet Schools in Florida - Destin, Panama City, Talla.


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Does anyone know anything about the Willis Ballet in Panama City, FL? The school for the company is called The Conservatory of Classical Ballet. They also have a sister school, The Saint-Petersburg Classical Ballet Theatre of Marina Medvetskaya.


We will be moving soon to the Destin- Panama City Beach- Ft Walton Beach area or Tallahassee, FL. I have found the school that I think dd will take at in Tallahassee, but as for the Destin area I am still researching... As of now it looks like either Northwest Florida Ballet in Ft. Walton Beach or the one I mentioned above in Panama City.


If anyone know anything about these companies, please let me know...Or if you know of another that I haven't found.



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Emilylorraine--can you provide us links? It may be that someone here is familiar with a teacher or director there.

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Peggy Willis Aarnio is in Lubbock, Texas. I believe she was originally from the Destin area of Florida, but has not been there for years.


I did find this link to a school associated with Willis-Aarnio, directed by one of her former students at TCU.



Edited by vrsfanatic
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I don't know if your kid(s) are elementary age, but there is a wonderful, audition only, magnet school for ballet for the 3rd through 8th grade kids in the Destin area. My niece commutes (she lives in Navarre) and has been there since 4th grade (she's in 7th now). It's FREE, always a plus, to the lucky few who get in. 40 girls and 40 boys in each grade. I can't remember the name, off the top of my head, but you can google magnet school/ballet, or look on the local school board website, or local newspaper articles for it. The older students take additional classes at an affiliated or recommended ballet school. You can call the magnet school and ask where. They are a good school and I am very impressed by my niece's skill and joy in dance.

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The link for the Willis Ballet is http://willisballet.com/


Do you know much about this program vrsfanatic?



The link for the one that I believe dance1soccer1 is speaking of is http://www.nfballet.org/

I think that Northwest Florida Ballet is the one that your niece is involved with. Let me know if it's not.



It appears to me that the Willis Ballet is going to be more Vaganova based, and my dd likes that. I just have never heard anything about any of these people.


It also looks like the Northwest Florida Ballet is good and that most of their staff comes from Joffrey (New York, I think...please feel free to correct me).


My daughter is eleven and was first at a very good ballet school in another city. We moved three years ago and she has been in the best school for ballet in this town, but it is not a pre-professional school. They really don't offer enough classes, so we have been improvising this year. One day a week we drive out of town to a class taught by a former professional dancer (He only offers the one class as an extra class for serious dancers). And I have a friend who used to dance with a Russian company who comes over once a week for a private lesson.


We are excited about being able to find a more serious school. I just want to make sure we choose the best one for her.

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I know of the Willis program in Texas, as well as the St. Petersburg Ballet that tours the world.


I suggest you go to visit both programs before making your selection.

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Not wishing to derail a good question, but rather deferring it for a bit - Let me speak well of the Northwest Florida Ballet, which, while it was still the Fort Walton Beach Ballet Association in 1970-71, I had the honor of being a director (there were five of us!) Joffrey was a common thread that connected many of us together, and Dorothy Lister, one of the present faculty, was on faculty at the Joffrey School when I was with the Joffrey company. Give them a try.

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Thank you, Mel. :wink: I'm so glad that I posted this question, I need to stop being afraid to ask questions!


Do you know where their students have gone on to?

Edited by emilylorraine
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Sorry, but the Air Force had a way of demanding my entire attention after I left Hurlburt Field. I wasn't able to monitor students from there for years. I do know that they sent a couple to Joffrey II and Boston Ballet.

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When choosing a new school I would suggest to look at the students produced by the school. Where have former students danced professionally? How long have these students studied in the school? Who has been on the faculty?


I have had students from NW Florida Ballet at in SIs, workshops and in our residential program. The level of student in the 14-18 year age group has been high. Since I work in a high school, I cannot comment on the younger age groups personally, but the faculty is strong.

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Thank you, both for all of your input!





Thank you also, BalletBooster.


We are actually either moving to the Destin area or Tallahassee. One of her teachers now drives up from Tallahassee, he's from the Southern Academy of Ballet Arts and their company is Pas De Vie. I have also been studying up on the Tallahassee Ballet. I sometimes wonder if they have a lot of influence from Florida State and if that makes them more modern than classical. I do know that one of dd's teachers now (the one who drives up here once a week) used to teach at the Tallahassee Ballet years ago.

Edited by emilylorraine
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I do think there is some affiliation between FSU and Tallahassee Ballet, as I know that some teachers at FSU have taught at TB. But, I wouldn't worry about them bringing a strong modern influence to the school. Have you looked at the bios of the ballet faculty at FSU? It includes Suzanne Farrell (Balanchine's last muse and winner of the Kennedy Center Honors for ballet), Rick McCullough (dancer with Nederlands Dance for many years and an award-winning choreographer who has set ballets for some very well known ballet companies and husband of the Dean of DAnce at NCSA), Anjali Austin (dancer with Dance Theater of Harlem) and Shelia Humphreys (soloist and ballet mistress for the Royal Ballet). These folks are all classically trained dancers, with careers at major ballet companies.


Your best bet in researching schools is to first call each school and ask some questions. Here are a few I would ask:


Who is currently on faculty? Can you tell me about their dance background and training?

How many classes and what is the schedule like for a dancer the age of your daughter at the school?

Can you tell me where your advanced students from the last five years are now? Are they in college dance programs or with pro companies?

What kind of performing opportunities do students have?

Do you have a formal evaluation process for students throughout the year?


A reputable pre-pro school will be able to answer all of these questions to your satisfaction. Then, those that sound good should be visited. Watch a class where your daughter is likely to be placed. Watch the most advanced class. Watch parts of classes for more than one teacher. Look around the studio and get a feel for the place. Do the dancers seem happy, comfortable, friendly? Are the studios clean and the floors sprung? Sit down in the lobby and strike up a conversation with another mom or two. Ask them how their dancers like the school. Find out where they go in the summers for SIs, ask where the advanced students train in the summers as well.


Once you do your homework, you will have a very good idea of the right school for your dancer. Best of luck with your move and in finding a good ballet school! :lol:

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emilylorraine, this is probably more basic than the kind of information you were seeking, but also make sure that ballet classes are 1 1/2 hours in length, students are expected to take three or more classes a week befores starting pointe, and those sorts of things.

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