Ballet Austin History
As distinctive and dynamic as the city it calls home, Ballet Austin welcomes audiences near and far to participate in its "classically innovative" vision for the democratization of dance. With a rich history spanning five decades, acclaimed productions, a commitment to creating access to programs and one of the nation's largest classical ballet academies, the organization is poised for an even greater future. From their home at the Butler Dance Education Center in downtown Austin, Ballet Austin and Artistic Director Stephen Mills actively engage the community, dancers and audiences alike. The New York Times proclaims Ballet Austin "a company with big ambitions" originating work that is "absorbing."
Hailed by Dance Magazine as “sleek and sophisticated” and by The Washington Post as “one of the nation’s best kept ballet secrets,” Stephen Mills works closely with the 22 full-time professional dancers. Mills’ work with Ballet Austin has been declared “whimsical and fantastic” (Dallas Morning News), “effortlessly striking” (Dance View Times), and “meaningful” (Pointe magazine). The New York Times observed Mills, “...innovate(s) by using the body in ways that depart from balletic convention.” Ballet Austin is the 12th largest classical ballet company in the country and also operates the largest combined training facility associated with a professional ballet company in the Unites States.
The Ballet Austin Academy is the official ballet school of Ballet Austin and one of the largest in the U.S. serving more than 900 students each year. Ballet Austin II, Ballet Austin’s apprentice company, offers an opportunity for post high school, advanced dancers to hone their skills in a professional environment. Established in 1999 by associate artistic director Michelle Martin, Ballet Austin II is made up of 8 nationally emerging artists.
Founded in 2007, the Butler Community School (BCS) serves over 6,000 people of all ages and skill level with year-round dance and fitness classes. The BCS is also home to one of Austin’s top-ranked Pilates Centers.
The company has developed outreach initiatives that reach 31 Central Texas school districts, 200 other area non-profits, engages families to dance together and invites patrons to informational talks.
Ballet Austin has participated in international festivals including Les Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationals de Seine-Saint-Denis in Paris, France, one of the premier modern dance festivals in Europe, and Le Festival des arts de Saint-Sauveur in Montreal, Canada. In the summer of 2005, at the invitation of the U.S. State Department, the company performed in Italy and Slovenia. In 2002, Mills led the Company to the Kennedy Center to perform to seven sold-out houses of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of the Center’s Youth and Family Public Performance Series. Mills was subsequently commissioned by the Center to create The Taming of the Shrew which made its world premiere in Washington, D.C. in 2004—after which The New York Times dubbed him “the bard of ballet.” The following year, the company was invited to perform at the Joyce Theater in NYC for a week’s engagement. Also in 2005, Mills’ landmark Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project was awarded the Audrey & Raymond Maislin Humanitarian Award by the Anti Defamation League. The company’s repertoire includes works by Ulysses Dove, Dwight Rhoden, David Parsons, David Nixon, Septime Webre, George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp and innovative collaborations such as the 2008 production Cult of Color: Call to Color with artist Trenton Doyle Hancock and composer Graham Reynolds.
In 2008 Ballet Austin became a founding resident company for the state-of-the-art Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts. Additionally, an in-house performance space, the 287 seat AustinVenturesStudioTheater, now allows the company to offer intimate and affordable performances in an urban environment.