Founded in 1969 as Lubbock Civic Ballet, Ballet Lubbock is a private, nonprofit organization that strives to be an integral component of Lubbock’s cultural fabric. Lubbock Civic Ballet’s debut performance was a collaboration with the Texas Tech Symphony Orchestra and the Amarillo Civic Ballet. As the Avalanche-Journal’s Jack Sheridan states, “It was an evening that was not only the beginning of a new era of culture in Lubbock, but also a night to remember and a pattern set for the future.”
For the next several years the school and repertoire season grew to include children’s ballets and divertissements from Act II of The Nutcracker. In 1978, The Nutcracker, was performed for the first time in its entirety. Beginning with this first production, Ballet Lubbock’s Nutcracker enjoyed live orchestral accompaniment.
From 1978 on, the annual performance seasons became The Nutcracker each December, a spring performance of mixed repertoire, both from the canon and newly commissioned, and an annual school performance. This format continued until a fall program of mixed repertoire was added in 2009.
Realizing a significant need for additional class and rehearsal space beyond the studio on Boston Avenue, the Ballet’s Board of Directors negotiated with Lubbock-ISD in 1980 to utilize the studios at Lubbock High School for a daily rental charge of $2.50 per day.
In 1985, Lubbock Civic Ballet’s Board of Directors voted to change the official name of the organization to Ballet Lubbock to create a broader and more regional spectrum. It remains to this day that Ballet Lubbock is a key pre-professional ballet school and company in the South Plains-Eastern New Mexico region.
As Ballet Lubbock grew in scope through the years, Ballet Lubbock found studio space in Lubbock High School, the Boys and Girls Club, and Lubbock Community Centers. Then, in 1997 Ballet Lubbock was able to move into its own rented facility large enough to host all classes. The growth of the school continued, and through generous community support, Ballet Lubbock opened its own state-of-the-art dance facility in 2004.
Since opening Ballet Lubbock’s new facility, student enrollment has more than quintupled, the budget more than tripled, scholarship granting has more than tripled, and outreach activities have expanded to include partnerships with Communities in Schools and Covenant Children’s Hospital. With grand plans for the future, Ballet Lubbock broke ground in April of 2017 on their 22,000 sf new home as the North East cornerstone of The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences. Ballet Lubbock is just getting started.
Suzanne Aker, Ballet Lubbock’s Founder, served as its first Artistic Director and Choreographer. Ms. Aker holds a B.A. Degree in Art and English from Tulsa University and has taught professionally for over 50 years. She holds Teacher Certification from the Royal Academy of Dance, England, and was instrumental in the earliest days of the Department of Dance at Texas Tech University.
Ms. Aker has been honored in many areas, including being named one of the Notable Women of Texas, the Chamber of Commerce Pathfinder Award, Who’s Who of America, Who’s Who of American Women, the National Dance Plaudit Award from National Dance Association, and was the ninth person inducted into the Buddy Holly Hall of Fame. In 1998, Ms. Aker was honored as the first recipient of the Founders Award for Outstanding Service to Youth. Texas Tech University has presented Ms. Aker with its Certificate for Outstanding Choreography four times.
Choreography credits include Texas Tech Symphony, Lubbock Symphony, Texas Tech Theatre, Lubbock High School, and the Garza Theatre, Post. In addition to her dance accomplishments, Ms. Aker has contributed articles to Dance Magazine, national and state physical education journals, authored a children’s book, “What Comes in Two’s, Three’s and Four’s,” and illustrated several children books.
One of only a few icon artists in the Southwest, Ms. Aker’s icons hang in churches in the United States and abroad. Suzanne also paints nearly 200 Nutcracker and Angel Ornaments every year to support Ballet Lubbock. Ms. Aker retired formally as an instructor and Director of Community Outreach Programs for Ballet Lubbock in May 2000. Suzanne continues her artwork and yoga, and maintains an active role in support of Ballet Lubbock programs and performances.