Understanding Exit Wounds: Chapter 1

Unearthing Stephen Mills' creative process...

It is 9 a.m. on Monday morning, and Stephen Mills stands at the front of the studio. He takes a sip out of his coffee mug, places it down, and softly says to his dancers, “let’s begin.”

Mills is the artistic director for Ballet Austin, a professional ballet company with studios in the heart of Austin, Texas. Since Mills became artistic director in 2000, he has grown the profile of the company and its repertoire by curating productions with cutting-edge choreography while making a name for himself as a choreographer who excels at creating works that address social justice issues. ​

Understanding Exit Wounds: Chapter 2

Jordan Moser - Behind the lens...

The sun lights the bedroom of Jordan Moser’s house in Wimberley, Texas, as he directs the dancers of Ballet Austin to move while he sets up the scene for his upcoming film. As he places his eyes on the camera viewfinder, Moser says, “Ready, set, action.”

Moser is a former Ballet Austin dancer who retired from the professional company last season. He grew up in California and moved around the world to dance before settling in Austin. Today, he serves in Ballet Austin’s marketing department as an audience content creator with a special focus on developing multimedia content, a new career that leverages both his artistic background and freelance experience in film and music production. 

Understand Exit Wounds: Chapter 3

Michelle Martin - Shepherd of detail...

Ballet Austin dancers have finished running through of one segment of Exit Wounds, a new world-premiere contemporary dance work by Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills. Associate Artist Director Michelle Martin stands beside Mills as he crafts this production. While Mills works with the dancers, Martin, with a pen and paper in hand, keeps careful watch on all action within the studio and writes lots and lots of notes.

Martin is Mills’ right-hand, helping him record the creation of — and facilitate the re-staging of — original productions bearing his name, including teaching or “setting” the choreography on dancers with other ballet companies who later license Mills’ works. Martin, who is known in the dance industry as a répétituer, is a unique kind of record keeper. She’s a human database of dance steps, staging decisions, creative inspiration and artistic intentions — a vital link in the chain that becomes the written, oral and movement history of any dance work.

Understanding Exit Wounds: Chapter 4

Oliver Greene-Cramer - Dancers as collaborators

The music begins, and Oliver Greene-Cramer moves through the studio with grace and power. His quality of movement is contagious to watch as he manipulates his body within the choreography.

Greene-Cramer’s been a member of Ballet Austin’s professional company since 2014 and has worked closely with Sarah & Ernest Family Fund Artistic Director Stephen Mills on the choreography for Mills’ new, world-premiere production, Exit Wounds.

Between rehearsals, I was able to speak with Greene-Cramer about his experience as a dancer creating new work.

Understanding Exit Wounds: Chapter 5

Graham Reynolds - The Music Man

A drummer finishes recording his section of a score, and Austin-based composer Graham Reynolds directs the members of his studio to the next task at hand while waiting for his piano to be tuned. His daily grind includes a growing to-do list wrapped in a nonstop whirl of creative flux. Despite the constant change, Reynolds is poised and focused on whatever project is in front of him.

Reynolds is a modern-day legend on the Austin music scene. He has created music for Ballet Austin multiple times, most notably for Stephen Mills’ Belle REDUX / A Tale of Beauty & the Beast and Cult of Color: Call to Color. Reynolds composed original music for the first of three stories of courage comprising Mills’ new dance work, Exit Wounds, premiering April 6–8 at the Long Center.

Understanding Exit Wounds: Chapter 6

Jaime Lynn Witts - A mother dancing for change...

Jaime Lynn Witts flys through the air with grace and power in ballet class as she prepares for her day of rehearsals. Witts is a versatile dancer that is explosive and exciting to watch.

Witts has danced with Ballet Austin for 14 years. She has played many lead roles within Sarah & Ernest Butler Family Fund Artistic Director Stephen Mills’ choreography. Witts is gearing up for Mills’ new, world-premiere production, Exit Wounds.

I was able to speak with her about the process of creating Exit Wounds.