Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Saturday,
Aug 29th
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!

Cast Your Vote

Should the US support the nuclear deal negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran?
 

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Obama to U.S. Jews: ‘We’re not giving away anything’ to Iran

Andrew Tobin The president said the nuclear agreement blocks Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and does nothing to limit the U.S.’s options against the Islamic Republic. ... [Link]

‘Homeland’ creator to direct film on Israel’s rescue of Ethiopian Jews

Gabe Friedman Israeli Gideon Raff’s latest project will portray the airlift rescues of thousands of Ethiopian Jews in the ’80s. ... [Link]

Yazidi leaders demand ‘Jewish Schindler’ prove he is saving people

Gabe Friedman In a letter published Wednesday, 20 advocates for the Yazidis questioned Steve Maman’s methods and demanded he inform Yazidi leaders about the specific people his group has rescued. ... [Link]

Plunder-filled Nazi train worth millions has likely been found

Julie Wiener The World Jewish Congress urged the Polish government to ensure any goods stolen from Jews be returned to their rightful owners or the owners’ heirs. ... [Link]

Kansas City shooter: ‘I had a patriotic intent to stop genocide’

Julie Wiener The white supremacist charged with killing three people outside two Jewish facilities in Kansas City admitted doing so, but urged the jury to judge him “not guilty.” ... [Link]

Iran nixes Israeli conductor’s Tehran performance

Julie Wiener A spokesman for Iran’s culture ministry was quoted as saying that “Iran does not recognize the Zionist regime and will not co-operate with artists of this regime.” ... [Link]

U.N. watchdog: Iran expanding Parchin facility

Cnaan Liphshiz Tehran dismissed the findings, which come as it prepares to close a deal with world powers. ... [Link]

Switzerland regrets using cartoon of birds defecating on Netanyahu

Julie Wiener The cartoon, in which doves with Iranian and American flags on their chests relieve themselves atop Netanyahu’s head, appears to reference the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposes. ... [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