Ballet AZ Blog

In The Spotlight: Gwen Hillis

Gwen Hillis. Photo by Haute Photography.

You are such a longstanding supporter of the arts in Arizona and Board Chair Emerita. What inspired such generosity, passion and commitment to ensuring that Ballet Arizona thrives and grows?

The dancers have been my biggest inspiration over the past 20+ years that I have been involved with Ballet Arizona. Their incredible talent, passion and dedication to their art has inspired and challenged me to do whatever I could to support them.

Why do you give?

The arts are a pillar in a vibrant community. It has taken almost 40 years to build Ballet Arizona to the outstanding dance company it is today. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of generous donors, foundations and our local government. I feel we have a responsibility to protect their investment and build on what they have contributed to ensure Ballet Arizona’s future.

What ballets classic or contemporary works have inspired you the most?

I don’t think any work of art could have an impact on me like Topia. It is such a unique and breathtaking experience. The power and elegance of both the dancers and the music in the desert setting at sunset, literally takes your breath away. I Iove how Topia amazes and touches everyone who sees it. It has a universal appeal that few ballets can match.

What are you most looking forward to next season?

I love Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite. I love musicals and I love ballet and this combines the two for me. Our dancers bring just the right touch of grace and theatre to their performance and it is such fun. I plan to see it more than once and as a Prima Circle member I will probably take advantage of seeing it in rehearsal too.

You and Ib Andersen are being honored at our upcoming Dance With Me Gala…

It is very special to be honored with Ib. I was the Board Chair 20 year ago when we hired Ib and few people know better than I the miracles he has performed.

Before Ib, we could almost sell you a Season row not just a Season ticket in the little Herberger Theatre. This year, The Nutcracker broke a record with a sold out performance at Symphony Hall! Ib has also hired a wonderful team that helps create the magic on stage including; Leonor Texidor who is responsible for the fabulous costumes, Director of Production, Michael Panvini, and of course Maria Simonetti (the glue) who now leads The School of Ballet Arizona.

I think our gala is the most fun gala in town. It really is a party, not a fundraiser with the torture of paddle raising and a live auction. The involvement of the dancers really makes it unique and fun. You might have a fascinating dinner partner from Cuba or if you’ve ever dreamed of dancing with a star this is your night. Our dancers are the best sports and will dance all night with guests.

Any other comments?

It was so much fun to see Nayon Iovino’s Mambaz…WOW! The combination of the jazz band on stage and the dancers’ performance rocked the Orpheum Theatre.
Interested in Ballet Arizona’s Dance With Me Gala? Click here for more information!

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