Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Saturday,
Aug 01st
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

Get your kosher dogs at Dodger Stadium!

Lisa Keys The hot doggery, which opened Tuesday, was a welcome development for Dodgers fans and observant Jews alike. ... [Link]

White House briefing of AIPAC activists ends in communication breakdown

Ron Kampeas Did AIPAC cut off questions, or did Obama’s officials use up their time? ... [Link]

After years of trying, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife are expecting first child

Gabe Friedman In a post on his personal account, the Facebook founder revealed that he and his wife had tragically tried to have a child for years without success. ... [Link]

Judge upholds sentence of mikvah-peeping rabbi

Julie Wiener The ruling Friday came in response to Rabbi Barry Freundel’s appeal of the sentence levied in May after he pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism. ... [Link]

Senate panel passes energy efficiency bill championed by Orthodox Union

Gabe Friedman The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed a bill developed in part by the Orthodox Union that will help synagogues and other nonprofit buildings lower their energy costs. ... [Link]

Gary Ackerman, former congressman from N.Y., comes out against Iran deal

Gabe Friedman Former Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman joined the advisory board of a group backed by AIPAC, which opposes the deal. ... [Link]

West Bank settlements hit by fires in suspected Palestinian revenge attacks

Julie Wiener Dozens of residents of a West Bank settlement were evacuated from their homes after inhaling smoke from a brush fire suspected of being set by Palestinians. ... [Link]

Jewish terror draws Netanyahu’s focus homeward

Ron Kampeas The flow of Iran messaging from the Prime Minister’s Office was interrupted by Netanyahu’s fierce condemnation of a deadly arson attack in the West Bank. ... [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