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Mary Abbott Milstead began her dance training at the age of seven under the skilled guidance of Master teacher Patty Harper.  A member of Abilene Metropolitan Ballet Company, she won the Cathy Merrill Achievement Award in 1976.  Mary attended numerous summer intensive sessions and studied with master teachers such as David Howard and Patricia Dickenson.


Mary competed in the Miss Dance Texas Contest and was 1st runner up as well as being chosen Miss Congeniality. After graduating from Cooper High School, she attended Texas Christian University. She completed her Dance Masters Certification in 1979.


Mary has been involved in many community arts programs. She performed and choreographed for Abilene Community Theatre, Paramount Performing Arts, Abilene Opera Association, as well as all three local universities. In 1980 she won 1st place in the West Texas Disco Championships.


While teaching at PHDS, Mary utilized her summer breaks to travel the United States to continue her dance training. In 1986 and 1987, Mary served as Dance Director at Hidden Valley Camp in Freedom, Maine. She had the unique opportunity to work with children from around the world there through arrangements with the United Nations.


Upon Patty Harper's retirement, Mary purchased the studio, never changing the name in honor of her mentor. In 1990, Mary opened an extension of the studio in Sweetwater and another extension studio in Stamford to provide more opportunities for extended communities to offer quality dance instruction. After three years, Mary closed these extension studios upon the arrival of her greatest achievements, her children Cailyn and Dylan.

In 1987, Mary was asked by world renowned tap teacher, Ray Hollingsworth, to join his touring company Dance Troupe USA. She taught in conventions across the U.S. as well as judging competitions and choreographing national finals routines until 2007.


In 1993, Mary became co-director of Abilene Ballet Theatre, a member of Regional Dance America. She performed, choreographed and directed ABT for fifteen years. Upon resigning from ABT,  Mary wrote and choreographed “Once Upon A Christmas Eve” which is performed annually. She also wrote two more full length stories for the stage, “Beeatrice” and “Pearl” which are performed every four years.


Patty Harper Dancers, under the guidance of Ms. Mary,  have performed throughout the southwest at Regional Dance America festivals and numerous competitions, as well as performing locally with the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2001, PHDS dancers performed on the Carnival Cruise ship “Celebration” and again in 2013 on “Triumph”. In 2014 Ms. Mary also took a group of dancers to New York City in 2014 to take classes and to experience the best of Broadway.   Mary continually strives to enrich her dancers by these unique dance trips and by bringing guest teachers to Abilene for summer training session opportunities.  In 2016, PHDS dancers will perform at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.


Many students from PHDS have continued their training and received dance degrees, have danced professionally, or direct studios of their own.

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