Mid-Week Intermission Friend Edition: Stephen Mills with Ballet Austin
This week’s Mid-Week Intermission features our friend Stephen Mills, Artistic Director and Choreographer for Ballet Austin. Read on to see how BA’s dancers are staying connected and how Stephen’s been spending time outside of the studio.
Hi, I’m Stephen Mills.
I am the artistic leader of Ballet Austin, one of the three Founding Resident Companies of the Long Center. To say this is an unusual time would be an understatement. So many people are suffering as a result of the pandemic and job loss. The country is also having a rich and consequential conversation about racial justice and equality. I am concerned and interested in all these issues but with a particular focus on the ways they affect artists of all mediums and the people behind the scenes you do not see who make it possible.
So far, we at Ballet Austin have missed two of our performance series since March 2020 and have cancelled our September performances as well. Dance is an intimate and collaborative experience that requires people be together. As a company of dancers, we deeply miss sharing class every morning and spending the day creating and preparing work to share with the community. We miss taking the work to the Long Center and collaborating with our talented and devoted crew to further develop the seamless performances you see. Finally, we miss the communication we as artists have with the audience, because that is the dialogue that closes the loop, thus allowing us to start again.
We also miss the sound of children in our building as they excitedly prepare to engage in the art of ballet through the Ballet Austin Academy. We miss the opportunity to take our art into the schools of Austin and beyond.
We at Ballet Austin have been volunteering to help with food drives organized by the Austin branch of Black Women in Business. The organization’s founder/CEO, Rose Smith and her colleague, Briana Murphy, are doing wonderful work in the community and have allowed us to participate. Before the pandemic food insecurity was a large problem in Austin and has been exponentially magnified over the past six months.
Personally, the shutdown has allowed me time to focus on reflection and learning. Presently, I am reading Isabel Wilkerson’s devastating book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. It is an amazing and clear perspective on racism in America.
I have watched everything there is to watch on Netflix and Hulu. Some of my favorites have included comedies such as Insecure, Ramy, and the reality show Indian Matchmaking. I have also been moved by Ava Duvernay’s haunting film When They See Us.
Having time away from my studio has allowed me extra time to wrestle with my continuous battle with the French language. I think I finally have the upper hand.
That being said, I anxiously look forward to being back in the studio with dancers, laughing, talking, debating, and focusing on the subject of art. And I would remind everyone to WEAR YOUR MASK!!!!!! It’s the simplest thing we can do to help.
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