Ballet Austin History
As distinctive and dynamic as the city it calls home, Ballet Austin welcomes people near and far to participate in its "classically innovative" vision for the democratization of dance. From their bustling, urban headquarters at the Butler Dance Education Center and Community School in downtown Austin, Ballet Austin and artistic director Stephen Mills actively engage the community, dancers, and audiences alike. With a rich history spanning 53 years, a commitment to education as well as lifelong fitness, and acclaimed productions in Austin and across the nation, the organization is equally committed to the international craft of dance as it is to the community it serves. 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 “one of the nation’s best kept ballet secrets” by The Washington Post, Stephen Mills works closely with the twenty full-time professional dancers, recruited from an annual 30-city audition tour. 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 15th 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.
Ballet Austin Academy is the official ballet school of Ballet Austin and serves more than 900 students each year as one of the largest classical ballet schools in the country. Ballet Austin’s apprentice company, Ballet Austin II, 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 11 nationally emerging artists.
Founded in 2007, the Butler Community School (BCS) serves over 3,000 people of all ages and skill level with year-round classes in ballet to modern, hip hop to hula, and jazz to Broadway. The BCS is also home to one of Austin’s top-ranked Pilates Centers, and offers a wide variety of instruction including yoga and Feldenkrais ®, 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 US 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 AustinVentures StudioTheater, now allows the company to offer intimate and affordable performances in an urban environment.