Biography

Declared by the New York Times as "an astounding dancer" and recognized as one of the most charismatic dancers of his time, Willy Shives began studying dance in his home state of Texas, eventually navigating his way into a brilliant 16 year tenure with the Joffrey Ballet.  

 

Willy Shives studied dance with Nikita Talin—a Dallas dance maverick with ties to the famous Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.  Early in his training, Shives was awarded a Ford Foundation Scholarship and studied with the School of American Ballet in New York City. Shives had an enduring and award-winning professional ballet career that included international engagements and stints with companies in New York, Chicago, Austin, Tulsa, Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh.  

 

Shives was elevated to the status of Premiere Danseur when he joined the Joffrey Ballet in the late 1990's.  His repertoire includes many 19th century classics, as well as works by such contemporary masters as Gerald Arpino, George Balanchine, Lew Christensen, John Cranko, Agnes de Mille, Martha Graham, Jiri Kylian, Robert Joffrey, Kenneth MacMillan, Ohad Naharin, Ruth Page, Ben Stevenson, and Antony Tudor.  

 

Shives is best remembered for his artistic versatility and many memorable stage performances, including his portrayal of the Prince in Kenneth MacMillan's Cinderella; his stage performance in Petrouchka; his interpretation of the Faune in L'Après-Midi d'un Fauné; and his striking appearance in the role of Billy in Eugene Loring's Billy the Kid. Shives also received distinction for his performance as the Lover in Tudor's Lilac Garden. 

In 2000, at the Balanchine Celebration held at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., New York Times critic Anna Kisselgoff  commented  on Shives' performance in Balanchine's Square Dance, "Willy Shives, is a highly interesting dancer and gave the ballet's interpolated solo a human warmth."

 

Remaining dearest to Shives' heart is Ruth, Ricordi Per Due, a final work created in 2004 by Joffrey Ballet Co-founder and Director, Gerald Arpino.  

 

Between 2003-2006, Shives was credited with numerous dance awards. He was the recipient of the Natalie Skelton Legacy Award, was named "Chicagoan of the Year" by the Chicago Tribune, and was also recognized by the Chicago Music and Dance Alliance. He went on to be named one of "Chicago Theatre's 50 Leading Characters."

 

In 2015 Shives was named Artistic Director at Ballet San Antonio, only recently stepping down to pursue other projects. He was credited for elevating the company and earning the title " Best Arts Organization 2017" by SA Magazine. 

 

Shives continues to engage in numerous artistic projects in the U.S and abroad and is currently a repetiteur for the Antony Tudor Trust, and the Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey Foundations.  As a leader in the world of dance, Shives has been as a guest moderator for the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts and currently serves on the jury of the World Ballet Competition. He extends his expertise and passion for his art teaching students of all skill levels through master classes and dance workshops.

 

As a choreographer, Shives has created over a dozen original works and has staged several full-length ballets for the professional stage. His works have been featured throughout the U.S., and most recently for the Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival in Texas.  Shives has been featured in several dance films including the documentary about the Joffrey Ballet:  Mavericks of American Dance directed by Bob Hercules. 

In his personal life, Shives is married to Evie Pena-Shives, a dancer with an extensive background in education and in public relations. The Shives' have two beautiful daughters, Cecily and Ally Shives.

Teaching Joffrey Summer Intensive- Chicago, IL

Willy and Evie Shives

Robert Joffrey teaching men's ballet class at the Southwest Regional Ballet Festival (circa 1979). A 16 year old Willy Shives shown in the photograph.

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