Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Saturday,
Aug 30th
Home IJN Special Sections L'Chaim (Spring) Choreographing the Holocaust

Choreographing the Holocaust

E-mail Print PDF

Stephen MillsCLASSICAL ballets are often the domain of regal swans, star-crossed lovers, evil magicians and mythical beasts. For the price of a ticket, the balletomane can swoon in an imaginary landscape unencumbered by harsh reality.

For choreographer Stephen Mills, the artistic director of Ballet Austin and a former dancer, ballet is his mother tongue — and he speaks it beautifully.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, however, beauty faded from his lexicon. Americans mourned. Flags waved. War loomed. Artists questioned.

“Making pretty dances certainly didn’t feel relevant or helpful at the time,” Mills says in a conference room at The Colorado Ballet. “You could argue that art is a salve that brings solace to people, and I would agree with that.

“But in terms of creating art, it felt like an empty exercise.”

Mills realized he needed to have a deeper conversation with his audience, and his art.

“I think people have always thought of ballet — not particularly dance but ballet — as a frail art form that is only capable of dealing with medieval fables, betrayed princesses and fairy tales,” he says.

Mills chose to stick with ballet, the language of his heart. But what would he say?

Not long after initiating a search for an appropriate subject, a friend suggested that the Holocaust might be the answer to his thematic dilemma.

“I thought that was a ridiculous idea,” Mills laughs candidly, explaining that he’s “just a Catholic boy from Kentucky.” He knew nothing about the Holocaust beyond The Diary of Anne Frank (eighth grade), Elie Wiesel’s Night (12th grade), and assorted, disconnected facts.

In 2003, Mills met for two hours with Holocaust survivor and Austin resident Naomi Warren, survivor of Auschwitz, Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen. For him, her narrative was revelatory.

“Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit with a survivor knows that it’s one of the most profound personal exchanges of your life,” he says. “A total stranger is giving you intimate details of the most horrific crime in human history.

“But I worried that I might be co-opting someone else’s story — that this was not my story to tell.”

Warren disagreed.

“I tried everything to convince Naomi that I was the wrong person to relate her story. She said that as an artist I had the resources to do this — and make a difference. Not only could I do it, it was my responsibility as a citizen of the world.”

The Colorado Ballet will perform the local premiere of “Light,” set to music by Steve Reich, Evelyn Glennie, Michael Gordon, Arvo Part and Philip Glass, on March 29-31 at DU’s Newman Center.

The rest of this article is available in the IJN's print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at (303) 861-2234 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated ( Monday, 25 February 2013 02:53 )  

IJN e-Edition

This is only a taste! Get full access to the IJN via our e-Edition, only $14.04 for IJN Print subscribers.

E-Edition subscribers get access to a complete digital replica of the IJN, which includes all special sections.

Get the IJN's free newsletter!

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Jon Stewart on filming in — and talking about — the Middle East

Talia Lavin Jon Stewart has been accused of being a “Zionist stooge” — and a self-hating Jew — because of his outspoken opinions on the Middle East. ... [Link]

Pew poll: More U.S. sympathy for Israel than Palestinians

Anthony Weiss More Americans express sympathy for Israel than for the Palestinians, according to a new survey. ... [Link]

Report: Rivers in induced coma

Ron Kampeas Joan Rivers is reportedly in an induced coma. ... [Link]

Yale chaplain blames anti-Semitism on Israel

Talia Lavin A controversial letter from an Episcopal chaplain has resulted in a heated debate over the causes of anti-Semitism. ... [Link]

Appeals court hears claims in Adelson v. NJDC lawsuit

Ron Kampeas A federal appeals court heard arguments in a bid by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to reinstate a defamation lawsuit against the National Jewish Democratic Council and two of its formal principals. ... [Link]

Obama administration targets array of Iran entities with sanctions

Ron Kampeas The Obama administration sanctioned a broad range of Iranian companies, banks, individuals and institutions, highlighting what it says is its determination to maintain pressure on the country while nu... [Link]

After tensions with residents, Lev Tahor leave Guatemalan village

Ron Kampeas Members of the controversial Haredi sect Lev Tahor left a Guatemalan village after religiously tainted disputes with its Roman Catholic Mayan residents. ... [Link]

This Week in Jewish Farming: Battling the blight

Ben Harris The tomato plant giveth and the tomato plant taketh away — a bit earlier than hoped. ... [Link]

Intermountain Jewish News • 1177 Grant Street • Denver, CO 80203 • 303 861 2234 • FAX 303 832 6942
email@ijn.com • larry@ijn.com • lori@ijn.com