WILLY SHIVES has been recognized as one of the most charismatic dancers of his time and declared by the New York Times as “an astounding dancer.” He danced his way into an enduring and award-winning professional career that included companies in New York, Chicago, Austin, Tulsa, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh. Shives held a brilliant 16- year tenure with the Joffrey Ballet, first as a leading dancer before moving into the role of ballet master. He was named Chicagoan of the Year in 2003. In 2004, the Chicago Dance and Music Alliance honored him with an award for “Outstanding Artistry.” Later in 2005, the Dallas Dance Council presented Shives with the Natalie Skelton Texas Legacy Award for Artistic Achievement.
In 2015, Shives was named Artistic Director of Ballet San Antonio. He is credited for elevating the overall esthetic of the Texas ballet company, earning the distinction “Best Arts Organization” in 2017 by San Antonio Magazine. In 2018 Shives changed course, leaving San Antonio to pursue other creative and international projects, which include master classes, coaching and choreography. He has created over a dozen original works and reconstructed and restaged four full-length classical ballets in the last three years: Don Quixote, Giselle, The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty. Shives remains an active répétiteur for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust and
the Gerald Arpino Foundation. He is part of an esteemed international panel of master teachers and judges for the World Ballet Competition (WBC).
Shives received his early start in dance with the Rio Grande Valley Ballet in Texas. He went on to receive his formal ballet training under George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet in New York City on a Ford Foundation Scholarship. He also trained at the Houston Ballet Academy and at the Harkness Ballet in New York City. In 1981, Shives married his childhood sweetheart Evie Peña. Thirty-seven years later, the Shives' and their two beautiful daughters have remained steadfast and passionate, choosing to live a life filled with family, art, laughter, and love.
EVIE PEÑA-SHIVES began studying dance with Danish ballerina Grethe Sullivan and earned her formal ballet training with the Harkness Ballet School in New York City. She forged a ballet career dancing professionally with several companies, including Milwaukee Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theater, Ballet Austin, and Tulsa Ballet Theatre. Her versatility as a ballerina offered her a range of notable roles, among them: Swanhilda in Coppelia, the Cowgirl in Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo, the Sugar Plum Fairy from Nutcracker, and the Ballerina Doll in George Balanchine’s Steadfast Tin Soldier. A moment Peña-Shives highlights in her career is when she danced the classical pas de deux from Le Corsaire. An understudy with only a moments notice, Peña-Shives stepped in to replace an injured ballerina. Supporting her in the pas de deux was none other than her husband Willy Shives, and by all accounts, it was a magical moment. One critic recalls it like this:
Shives’ partnering of Pena-Shives, who is his wife, was at once moving and seemingly effortless. But, however well the couple danced together in the pas de deux, it was their individual leaps and crisp turns that rightly brought the audience to its feet with accolades.
—Susan Everly-Douze Sep 14, 1991 (Tulsa World)
Peña-Shives has been on the faculty of several dance institutions including the School of Ballet Chicago, Chicago Ballet Arts, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Dance Alloy. Peña-Shives was honored in 2012 with the Patron of the Arts Award from Chicago’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She holds a Master’s degree in Education from DePaul University in Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Chatham College in Pittsburgh, PA. Peña-Shives has worked in journalism and public relations. She dedicated years of service in the Chicago Public schools teaching regular and gifted education at the Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago. She continues her work as an educator with the Austin Independent School District. She is also a freelance writer and lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters.