LISA COLLINS VIDNOVIC, founder and director of Metropolitan Ballet Company and Metropolitan Ballet Academy, has since 1976 enjoyed a life in ballet as a professional dancer, ballet mistress, teacher, and choreographer.
A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ms. Collins began studying dance at age 8 with Margo Crowdus, a disciple of the Cecchetti school. She later trained with Ballet Russe veterans Moscelyne Larkin-Jasinski and Roman Jasinski, Sr., who went on to found Tulsa Ballet. The Jasinskis were pioneers in bringing classical ballet to the heartland of the United States. Known for their revivals of major works created during the Ballet Russe era, they hosted dance luminaries from around the world, giving Ms. Collins the opportunity at a young age to observe and dance with visiting artists such as Frederic Franklin, Natalia Krasovska, Cynthia Gregory, Natalia Makarova, and Ivan Nagy.
While dancing at the National Association of Regional Ballet / Southwest Festival (now Regional Dance America) in 1974, at age14, Ms. Collins was awarded a full scholarship to American Ballet Theater in New York. At 16 she began her professional dance career with Lyric Opera Ballet in Chicago under the direction of Maria Tallchief. Highlights of her three seasons with Lyric Opera Ballet included performing in Balanchine’s choreography for Orfeo edEuridice; as a soloist for the world premiere production of Krzysztof Penderecki’s Paradise Lost, with choreography by John Butler; and as a principal in Balanchine’s choreography for the Opera’s 25th anniversary production of Gounod’s Faust. She also danced principal roles in Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie and Donizetti Variations; and worked with Jacques d’Amboise as a principal in his ballet, Capriccio Italien, and with John Taras in his Soiree Musicale.
From 1979 to 1989 Ms. Collins danced with Pennsylvania Ballet, working under the direction of founder Barbara Weisberger, master teacher Lupe Serrano, and artistic directors Benjamin Harkarvy and Robert Weiss. Ms. Collins was featured in a diverse repertoire of both classical and modern works including Swan Lake Pas de Trois, Merce Cunningham’s world premiere of the ballet Arcade, Paul Taylor’s Arden Court, ballets by noted choreographers Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Richard Tanner, Peter Martins, and numerous ballets by George Balanchine. During her last two seasons with the company, Ms. Collins also served as assistant ballet mistress.
Ms. Collins taught on the faculty of the School of Pennsylvania Ballet from 1983-1996, and on the faculty at Bryn Mawr College from 1990-2000. She performed with the Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble from 1993- 2000, exploring a keen interest in folkloric dance forms, and served as ballet mistress for the troupe from 1995-2003.
In 1996, Ms. Collins founded Metropolitan Ballet Academy (MBA) in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and in 2001 established the nonprofit Metropolitan Ballet Company (MBC) to providescholarships, performance training for pre-professional dancers, and outreach programs designed to promote a love and appreciation of dance in the community.
MBA students are regularly accepted for study at numerous professional programs including American Ballet Theatre, School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Bolshoi Academy, Harid Conservatory, and Pennsylvania Ballet. From 1999-2012, MBA was the principal interim school providing students for children’s and company roles in Pennsylvania Ballet’s The Nutcracker as well as for other Pennsylvania Ballet productions, including Peter Pan, The Sleeping Beauty, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, La Fille Mal Gardée, Cinderella, Carnival of the Animals, and La Sylphide. In 2011, MBA was named by Pointe Magazine as “one of the seven studios nationally producing major talent which has translated into a career in dance” (October/November 2011). In 2012, MBA was honored to be presented with Youth America Grand Prix’s Outstanding School Award in Philadelphia for the exceptional performances of 25 of their pre-professional level students.
Ms. Collins has received international acclaim for MBC’s Boys’ Scholarship Dance Program, supported in part by a generous grant from The Loeb Performing Arts Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation (2001-present). Now entering its 16th year, the program annually provides tuition-free dance training for over 50 boys ages 7-18. The Program was the focus of a television documentary produced by Voice of America TV (2000), and has been featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications.
Ms. Collins is equally known for her work as a choreographer. In addition to her full-length productions for children and concert works for MBC’s pre-professional training company, she received a grant from the New York State Culture & Arts “Building Ballet Repertory” program to choreograph for Albany Berkshire Ballet, and has choreographed new works for Raleigh Dance Theatre and Temple Opera Theater. Her work, Contrasts, was featured on the Concert program at the 2009 Regional Dance America/Northeast festival in Harrisburg, PA.
In June 2010, Ms. Collins was honored to receive an Imagine Award from Educating Communities for Parenting for her work with children and families in Philadelphia. In January of 2011, and again in January 2013, Ms. Collins was the recipient of the Youth America Grand Prix Outstanding Teacher Award in Philadelphia. She was honored to sit on the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts panel in 2013.
Ms. Collins resides in Jenkintown, PA with her husband. They are the proud parents of two lovely, grown daughters.