Ballet was first offered in Midland when Georgia Goss Harston, Patsy Yeager’s sister, began teaching classes at the downtown Scharbauer Hotel in 1932. After marrying and moving away in the 1940’s, Ms. Haston returned and taught classes in her home on Ohio Street until Robert Mann, director of the Midland Odessa Symphony helped form the Permian Civic Ballet in 1967. Over a 14-year period, more than 500 dancers trained with 5 to 10 percent pursuing professional and/or teaching careers beyond the local instruction.
Ballet Midland followed in the early 80’s and combined performances by professional dancers with instruction for the local students. Both Midland College and Midland Community Theatre helped with hiring teachers and provided space for the classes along with rehearsal space for the professionals provided by the Midland-Odessa Symphony Orchestra until the Board of Directors chose to become a performing company and later made a decision to dissolve in the early 90’s.
Judy Coleman, Founding Director, formed Midland Festival Ballet in 1993. The first annual performance of The Nutcracker was held at Wagner and Brown Auditorium in the Allison Fine Arts Center at Midland College in 1994. It included three sold-out performances with 50 performers representing two dance schools in the Permian Basin. IN 1995, two performances were held at Lee High School Auditorium accompanied by the Midland Odessa Symphony Orchestra. A third performance was presented in Big Spring. Three guest-soloists from New York City Ballet danced with 85 performers representing three dance schools. Both KMID and KOCV-TV televised the local performances.
Since 1996, two performances have been held annually with nearly 2000 in attendance each year. Dancers from an average of five dance schools (ranging from four to eight per year) have performed, totaling, more than 100 youth, and adults annually. Professional dancers continue to perform as guest artist in the lead roles and Midland-Odessa Symphony Orchestra provides live music for the production.
The first Spring Gala performance in 1998 was entitled Works in Progress and included excerpts from Swan Lake, Coppelia, The Fairy Doll, and Pickin and Kickin. Guest Soloist from the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York City also performed. Since 2000, two annual performances have featured guest artist from Arizona Ballet, Houston Ballet, Kingwood Dance Theatre, Louisville Ballet, Miami Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, and Texas Ballet Theatre with Midland Festival Ballet Company Members performing excerpts of classical ballets such as Giselle, Les Sylphides, Napoli, Raymonda, and Sleeping Beauty. Bobby Ball, Lee-Wei Chao, Yen Li-Chen, Jean-Paul Comelin, Andrea Comola, Rob Davidson, Anthony Ferro, Kevin Freeman, Elizabeth Gillaspy, Kirt Hathaway, Karl von Rabeneau, and Donna Ross have choreographed other pieces for the company.
In 2007, Midland Festival Ballet initiated a third production, Fairytale Festival with a Friday evening performance of Cinderella at Midland High School Auditorium. Beauty and the Beast was performed in 2008 and Peter and the Wolf in 2009. Cinderella was repeated in 2010.
Since 1998, Midland Festival Ballet Company Members have participated annually in both Celebration of the Arts sponsored by Arts Assembly of Midland and Septemberfest sponsored by Museum of the Southwest. Additional outreach performances have included school performances at Grady Independent School District, “Child’s Play” with Ector ISD in addition to Hillcrest School and other local non-profit organizations. Because of he outreach performances, more than 6,000 children and adults additionally experience the arts each year.
With the inception of Coleman Academy in 1993, Midland Festival Ballet was organized as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit arts organization and served as the official resident ballet company of the school. In summer 2009, Midland Festival Ballet assumed full responsibility for the School of Midland Festival Ballet and is now providing instruction to more than 150 students annually. In addition, Midland Festival Ballet Company Members have performed in the Regional Dance America/Southwest (RDA/SW) festival annually since 1998.