The Onion of Arts in Panama City Beach

by June 15, 2009 • 2 comments

Let’s play a word association game. It’s simple, I say a phrase and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Okay, ready? The phrase is: “Panama City Beach”. What was the first thing that popped into your head? Let me take a stab at this. Was it any of the following: beaches, emerald beaches, sugar sand, party, pier park, parasailing, or golf? Was I close? Maybe, maybe not, but let me tell you what I am sure that it wasn’t: culture, theatre, arts. When one thinks of Panama City Beach, the last thing thought about is any cultural events.

Right across the Hathaway Bridge we have Panama City, which has been named one of “America’s 100 Best Small Art Towns”. At BayArts.org, you can see all the supporters and events that are listed. Although the organization encompasses all of Bay County, except for the library on schools, there is not one of the groups listed that has it residence on the beach. Which begs the question, “What does the beach have to offer to the arts?”. Well, there is an onion of art here, and one must peel that onion to uncover its gems.

Since my interest in the arts mostly lay in ballet, I would like to share a gem that we have right here on the beach. We have a local ballet company, The Willis Ballet, that is run by Dr. Peggy Willis-Aarnio. It is a professional dance school, I do not want to get into the programs that are offered there when ballet classes are offered at other local schools.  I want to focus on what is different.  Dr. Willis-Aarnio, taught at Texas Tech for 31 years, and is currently a Professor Emeritus of that University. She is a leading international authority on the Classical Ballet Teaching Method. She is the Director of the Willis Ballet, and a choreographer whose productions have aired on PBS and has performed in England before Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.  She is the Director of the Willis Conservatory of Classical Ballet and most importantly a Teacher of Teachers.

Dr. Willis-Aarnio will be hosting the 13th Annual International Teacher’s Congress and Student Workshop in July 2009. This is not only special because Dr. Willis-Aanrio will be sharing her extensive knowlege in Classical Ballet to aspiring ballet teachers from around the country. It is additionally special because Galina Panova will be teacing a class during the workshop to students participating in the Teacher’s Congress.

If you are one of the many who says, “Who is Galina Panova?”, don’t feel bad. Many would not recognize her name, but you should recognize some of the names of famous ballet dansuers (male equivelanet to ballerina), since she has partnered with some of the greats of the 20th century, including Valery Panov, her husband; Mikhail Baryshnikov; Fernando Bujones; and Rudolf Nureyev. George Balanchine, artistic director of the New York City Ballet, cast her in the Broadway musical “On Your Toes,” which he choreographed. Panova did a straight run of over 500 performances which is unprecidented.

This treasure is being brought to Panama City Beach to teach a Variations Class during the Teacher’s Workshop. It would be an honor for any serious ballet teacher or student to attend. So yes, there is art on Panama City Beach, and I will continue to hunt out these rare gems and report them to you.  If you are aware of any events, please feel free to contact me, and we can peel the arts onion together.

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1 James June 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Panama is truly a great place for any business or cultural event. It will only enrich the place further and bring more tourism which boosts the economy even more, a cascading effect ensues.

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2 Lisa Rios June 16, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Great Job, Arleen! I love your “onion” analogy. I hope CCB will get some attention from your article, at least people coming in to check us out! CCB is a rare gem, not only in PCB but in the nation!

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