Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Wednesday,
Jul 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

Op-Ed: Learning to argue on Tisha b’Av

Daniel Treiman We can have passionate disagreements without descending into hatred, Yehudah Mirsky writes. ... [Link]

Israel, U.S. deny account of tense Obama-Netanyahu call

Ron Kampeas U.S. and Israeli officials sharply denied an account of a tense conversation between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. ... [Link]

Amid uncertainty of an open-ended war, U.S.-Israel tensions rise

Ron Kampeas Rapidly changing events on the ground in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza are accompanied by volatility in the U.S.-Israel relationship. ... [Link]

France extradites Brussels Jewish museum shooting suspect

Marcy Oster The Frenchman suspected of killing four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium was extradited by France to Belgium. ... [Link]

4 videos on the Gaza war that have pro-Israel viewers cheering

Uriel Heilman Amid the fighting in Gaza and Israel, video clips of Joan Rivers, Howard Stern, Ron Dermer and Hillel Neuer are cheering the pro-Israel crowd. ... [Link]

U.K. supermarket chain to stop carrying West Bank products

Anthony Weiss The largest supermarket chain in the United Kingdom has announced that it will cease to sell products sourced in the West Bank by September. ... [Link]

Poll: Less than 4 percent of Israeli Jews believe firepower on Gaza excessive

Marcy Oster Less than 4 percent of Israeli Jews believe the Israel Defense Forces has used excessive firepower in Gaza, an Israeli survey found. ... [Link]

In U.S., Gaza conflict reverberates on air and in the streets

Uriel Heilman American supporters and critics of Israel are battling it out over the Gaza conflict — with commentary, slogans, demonstrations and some notable rants by Joan Rivers and Howard Stern. ... [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