They were meant as cautionary tales, to keep us on the straight and narrow. But many familiar childhood stories started as grim reminders of what happens when naiveté meets wickedness, and the balance between good and evil is in question. In this new, full-length work, made possible through the generous support of the Butler New Choreography Endowment, Artistic Director Stephen Mills delves into the underbelly of some of your favorite fairy tales and shows you the real beauty of the lessons they impart. Inspired by the visual art of Natalie Frank, the world premiere of Grimm Tales will leave you unsettled, unafraid, and undeniably hungry for more.
CONCEPT AND CHOREOGRAPHY BY STEPHEN MILLS
INSPIRED BY THE ARTWORK OF NATALIE FRANK
MUSIC: Graham Reynolds
Graham Reynolds' original score for Grimm Tales is funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts.
DRAWINGS: Natalie Frank
SCENIC/PROP DESIGN: George Tsypin
COSTUME DESIGN: Constance Hoffman
LIGHTING DESIGN: Tony Tucci
PROJECTION DESIGN: Howard Werner
STORY: Edward Carey
This production runs approximately 80 minutes without intermission and is recommended for ages 10 and older.
“Grimm Tales,” a ballet opening Friday in Austin, Texas, has queens and dwarves and a frog-kissing princess—but doesn’t end happily ever after. The Ballet Austin production is based on tales from the Brothers Grimm and inspired by the gritty drawings of Natalie Frank, an artist who has spent the past eight years exploring the gruesome scenarios behind “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and other folk stories.
Stephen Mills, Ballet Austin’s artistic director, choreographed the ballet and commissioned a score from composer Graham Reynolds. Ms. Frank shaped the look of the production and created 35 drawings for the sets. Some drawings are animated and will be projected on to scrims onstage; others will be concurrently exhibited in Austin’s Lora Reynolds Gallery until June 8. Ms. Frank worked with Tony-nominated designer Constance Hoffman on costumes for the 22 dancers in the ballet.
“What I think a lot of people don’t know is that the Grimms’ tales began as women’s oral tales, so they’re a way for women to represent their fears and anxieties and desires at a time where they were quieted by the church or the state. So they are a little bit transgressive," says Frank of her source material. "Stephen's company feels like a contemporary set of dancers: the bodies, ethnicities, genders--it's very nontraditional, in the same way these tales aren't traditional."
Ballet Austin artistic director and choreographer Stephen Mills was inspired by an exhibition of New York-based artist Natalie Frank’s work and accompanying book, aptly titled “Grimm Tales.” Frank’s colorful drawings underscore the provocative nature and feminist voice of the Grimms’ stories, an element that has also been adapted into the world of ballet. Frank’s work will be incorporated into the production through onstage projections and animations, and she has teamed with Tony-nominated costume designer Constance Hoffman. While Hoffman is charged with the ballet’s costumes, the pair are collaborating on the textile design, and the entire process has taken a collaborative shape, with each element—including set design by George Tsypin and music by Graham Reynolds—impacting the various parts.
This premiere production offers an exciting look into the world of contemporary ballet choreography and its ability to address popular culture. The numerous vantage points of hunger persisting throughout the performance point out the dilution (or perhaps sweetening) of Disney’s interpretations.
Here, the violent questioning of agency over one’s body, coupled with the gender expectations of dance, create a key distinction. Further, the performance creates an impact that cannot be found in the classical stories we have grown accustomed to in ballet—sparking an urgency to create contemporary work the public is craving to experience.
Once upon a time, Stephen Mills, artistic director of Ballet Austin, was presented with a special gift: a grant that would fully endow the creation of a new full-length contemporary dance. However, there was one condition. Everything must be entirely new, from the music and choreography to the costumes and design, even the narrative itself.
Mills set off on an extensive search for the elusive fruit of inspiration — a spark that would ignite his vision. It was one fateful day at the Blanton Museum of Art that he happened upon an exhibition of drawings entitled Natalie Frank: The Brothers Grimm. Enchanted by the works — depictions of the age-old fairy tales that were at once gruesome, aggressive, vibrant, and fantastic — he knew he had to find the artist.
Artist Natalie Frank is most well-known for a series of portraits she did subverting the happily-ever-after Grimm Brothers tales in favor of their more sinister roots and an emphasis on female power. In Grimm Tales, a collaboration with Ballet Austin that debuted this past weekend, Frank’s vision is given new life in the sets and costumes in this production, which reimagines three Grimm Brothers fairy tales through a feminist lens.
It is difficult to render such a multimedia collaboration without one element overshadowing the other, particularly when combining dance and visual art. One of the many challenges Frank and Mills faced in the conception of this work was finding a balance within this liminal space. What they created was a stunning dialogue between the dancers and Frank’s paintings as they floated and panned behind them, together providing a more holistic understanding of the fairy tale as it unfolded.
Put together three masterful artists — Stephen Mills, Natalie Frank and Graham Reynolds — at the peak of their inventiveness and skill and you end up with a tour de force like Ballet Austin’s “Grimm Tales.” It is almost impossible to register in mere words the force and originality of this reimagining of three Grimm fairytales.
What more to say about Mills and Ballet Austin, as well as the Butler New Choreography Endowment that made this supreme achievement possible? All I can say is that we are extremely lucky to see it first. I’m betting that other ballet companies around the country will be do everything possible to make sure they can restage Austin’s unforgettable “Grimm Tales.”
The three dances in Ballet Austin’s “Grimm Tales,” which plays March 29-31 at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, do in fact borrow their storylines from the more than 200 fairy tales collected by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 19th century. Nevertheless, director Stephen Mills initially came to the material, not by rereading them, but through the fluid, fantastical art of Natalie Frank, the Austin-born artist who now lives and works in New York City.
Blanton Museum of Art curator Veronica Roberts, who set up “Natalie Frank: The Brothers Grimm” at the Austin museum in 2015, shared some of the artist’s dreamily symbolic images with Mills in advance of the exhibition.
“I loved them so much,” Mills says. “I visited her show at the Drawing Center in New York to see them in person — I think there were 30 of them, I don’t remember how many precisely — but I was struck by how much narrative content she could fit into one frame. And her unabashed use of color. They caused me to think more deeply about these stories that we have been surrounded by since childhood. The stories are really dark. I wanted to tell the real stories, not the versions that children get today.”
Once, in a thriving city by a river, there was a company of dancers who brought to their fine stage many stories of life in their times. The company was called Ballet Austin, and the man who created most of the company's dances – and certainly the most ambitious and wellreceived of those dances – was named Stephen Mills. One day, while viewing a series of paintings in one of the city's more progressive museums, Mills was inspired to devise a new work of ballet for his company, a work based on the paintings he'd seen: the vivid and unsettling illustrations of tales that had long ago been gathered by the Brothers Grimm, as rendered by a former inhabitant of the city: Natalie Frank.
"I saw Natalie's exhibit at the Blanton," says Mills. "And, earlier, I'd seen her show at the Drawing Center in New York, which was maybe 30 drawings. When 'The Brothers Grimm' came to the Blanton, the space was larger and the show was more robust. And when I was standing there, looking at the things, I thought it would make a good dance. And someone came up to me – someone who I didn't know, but I guess they've seen Ballet Austin and some of the things that I do – and she said, 'Wouldn't this make a great ballet?' And I thought, Well, thank you, yes, I think it would."
Ballet Austin artistic director Stephen Mills first saw Natalie Frank’s lurid, subversively feminist drawings of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales in 2015. The exhibition “Natalie Frank: The Brothers Grimm” had traveled to the Blanton Museum of Art, after generating buzz in New York on its debut at the Drawing Center which had organized the show.
“I was drawn most to the color, to how each drawing had so much narrative in it,” said Mills recently. “Here were these very old, very dark and often violent stories and yet they were presented with empowered female figures. That juxtaposition really fascinated me.”
In the world premiere of Ballet Austin’s GRIMM TALES, artistic director Stephen Mills transforms twisted versions of some well-known classics into something truly unique. Blending classical and contemporary ballet, Mills’ choreography lends itself to the challenging and at-times dark subject matter. And through three brief tales, Ballet Austin’s company dancers are able to not only bring to life grim stories, but also individually shine—displaying a wide variety of talents and technique.
From misshapen artwork that evokes the style of Picasso to choreography that pushes boundaries, Ballet Austin’s GRIMM TALES is a unique ballet that delivers the unexpected in a format that feels strangely familiar. Based on three famous Grimm versions of The Frog King, Snow White, and The Juniper Tree, the ballet reimagines classic tales through a new lens—where both parts of dualities like vibrancy/darkness and classical/contemporary, share equally important roles on the stage. Artistic director and choreographer for the company, Stephen Mills, challenges the format of classical ballets with this noir interpretation, but still brings the classical and contemporary movement that had audiences applauding for more.
Good artistic collaborations entail multiple paths of individual talents merging into one, reaching a generally agreed upon destination or vision. A mash-up of sorts, where the sum is always greater than the parts. But what differentiates the good from the compelling? Those are the collaborations that completely immerse you in a new world and leave you wanting to discover more. They are born of a curiosity taken to its limits and gratefully follow the road that serendipity lays out in creating connections for all involved. In short, the very best collaborations are the ones that bring each artist to a new place, just as they do the audience.
Such is the case with Ballet Austin’s latest original work “Grimm Tales,” which takes center
stage at the Long Center this weekend for its world premiere. The piece, choreographed by Stephen Mills, Ballet Austin’s artistic director, features visuals inspired and created by New York-based artist Natalie Frank, who happens to hail from Austin. With just three performances starting on Friday, “Grimm Tales,” the inaugural work commissioned by the Butler New Choreography Endowment, promises to be one of the year’s highlights in performing arts.
In early 19th century Germany, brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm started collecting oral stories passed down in families by the women. These tales described what life was like at that time, when dangers lurked around every corner and dying in childbirth was common. The Brothers Grimm, as they became known, refined the tales they collected and eventually published them. Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and Rapunzel were just a few of the hundreds of stories.
This weekend, the tales take on another life as a ballet in Ballet Austin’s Grimm’s Tales. Choreographed by artistic director Stephen Mills, the ballet is based on three of the fairy tales, Snow White, The Juniper Tree, and The Frog King. Just don’t expect “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” because this ballet takes its inspiration from the original fairy tales and their dark themes. They also come with a feminist perspective, represented through the artwork of Natalie Frank. In fact, it was Frank’s drawings that sparked the idea for the ballet.
There’s a longstanding tradition of artists collaborating with ballet companies, from Picasso’s Cubist sets for the Ballets Russes to Chagall’s costumes for the Magic Flute and Firebird. But rarely does an artist’s work inspire an entirely new ballet, as it did this past weekend when the Ballet Ballet premiered GRIMM TALES, a production based on drawings by the New York-based artist Natalie Frank, who also created many of the resulting performance’s visual elements. Ballet Austin artistic director Stephen Mills first saw Frank’s feminist reinterpretations of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales at the Drawing Center in New York in 2015 and, later, at the Blanton Museum in Austin.
“First you see the colors, then the textures, and then you start to look at what’s going on narratively and—whoa—this is some strange stuff. It’s sensual, it’s sexual, and it’s very dark,” he said. In the past, he has staged such classics as The Nutcracker and Giselle, but it’s “exceptionally rare” to have the opportunity to produce contemporary ballet," he said. "This felt like just the material to do it."
“As a choreographer, I’m always looking for new narratives,” Mills told artnet News, noting that he had previously worked with artists Trenton Doyle Hancock and Michael Smith. “I was there looking at Natalie’s pieces, and someone came up to me and said ‘wouldn’t these be wonderful as a ballet?'”
Grimm Tales will be the first new ballet staged thanks to Ballet Austin’s Butler New Choreography Endowment, based on a $3 million philanthropic gift that will allow the company to commission a new piece every three years. (This type of generosity in the performing arts is “something that happens very seldomly,” Mills noted.)
“The thing that drew me in was Natalie’s drawings have this very sensual and sexual and violent character that in many ways more closely reflects the original tales, which were not as sanitized as the ones that we know today,” Mills added.
Ballet Austin performed the world premiere of “Grimm Tales,” a collaboration with artist Natalie Frank. Stephen Mills choreographed the full-length piece, inspired by the artist’s drawings of The Frog King, Snow White, and The Juniper Tree. Revolving around the theme of hunger—physical, sexual, and literal—New York-based Frank created over 30 drawings to work from with costume designer Constance Hoffman set designer George Tsypin.
"We all brought tales that we loved from the Grimm’s," [Frank said]. "I’ve always loved The Frog King. I thought that story had both a strong heroine, humor, sexuality, hilarious violence, and transformation. We thought that would be a great way to start the ballet. And we end the ballet with The Juniper Tree, which is one of the darkest of Grimm’s fairy tales. And in the middle is Snow White."
Even when the first volumes of Grimms’ Fairy Tales were published in the early 19th century they were not regarded as suitable for children, even though they were entitled “children’s tales.” As Ballet Austin artistic director Stephen Mills explained, “there was such a disconnect from the stories I heard as a child: they were cleaned up by Disney, sadly I think.” Some of these tales are grim indeed, and they form the basis for this world premiere ballet performance of GRIMM TALES at the Long Center in Austin.
That interpretation can only be described as a landmark event in early 21st century ballet. The fusion of the visual, the dance, and the music is powerful, and certainly rose to the level of shocking at times. The ever-changing Chagallesque backdrop by Natalie Frank against which the dancers perform gives us a portal into another world, the fairy tale world spun by the Grimm Brothers.
Grimm Tales presents three classic stories from the translations of scholar Jack Zipes: The Frog King, Snow White, and The Juniper Tree. Though these stories have most often been presented in a family-friendly manner, they were originally studies in the grotesquerie of everyday life, especially for women, who were their original tellers-surreal tales of horror meant to both titillate and frighten.
Frank's drawings and Mills' work emphasize feminist perspectives within a tradition where women were either portrayed as weak or villainous, despite being their narrators. Natalie Frank's reimagining presents the full force of the Grimm Brothers while updating its concerns and aspirations for a new generation.
Frank, who is originally from Austin and is now based in New York, is internationally known for wryly subversive figurative drawings and paintings. For Grimm Tales she has created over 30 new drawings, as well as animations, to serve as backdrops for the ballet.
Max began dancing under Risa Kaplowitz, Director of Princeton Dance and Theater (PDT) Studio in Princeton, N.J. He began performing at age 12 with Princeton Youth Ballet. In 2014 Max began studying at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School after winning a full scholarship through Youth American Grand Prix. He trained at the JKO School from 2014-2017, first under Franco De Vita and then Cynthia Harvey. While at the JKO school, Max performed Jeremy McQueen’s original work, Garden of Dreams, at the Ballet Across America Gala. He performed the Paquita Grand Pas de Deux and George Balanchine’s La Source at JKO’s year-end performance. In 2016 Max was awarded the prestigious Northern Trust Scholarship. Max spent his summers at PDT, Orlando Ballet School, the Chautauqua Institute, and American Ballet Theatre, N.Y. He also studied at the Amsterdam International Summer School, IBStage in Barcelona, and International Ballet Masterclasses in Prague.
Ian J. Bethany is from Long Island, N.Y. He started dancing as a tap and jazz student at Robert Mann Dance Centre. He started ballet at Tap to Pointe Dance Center, continuing at the Frank Ohman School of Ballet, the School of Ballet Chicago, Ballet Academy East, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. With Ballet Austin, Ian has been featured in George Balanchine’s Agon and Allegro Brillante, Nicolo Fonte’s Lasting Imprint, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Requiem for a rose, Gabrielle Lamb’s Dovetail, Bradley Shelver’s The Last Just, Stephen Mills’ Carmina Burana, The Magic Flute, and The Nutcracker, as the Master of Ceremonies in Mills' Cinderella, in the Bluebird Pas de Deux in The Sleeping Beauty, as the White Rabbit in Septime Webre's Alice (in wonderland), and as Peter Pan in Paul Vasterling's Peter Pan. He has performed with project-based company Performa/Dance, ZACH Theatre, Zilker Theatre Productions, has sung with the Austin Opera and does numerous juggling gigs around Austin. Ian has choreographed and taught for the Ballet Austin Academy, the ZACH Theatre Pre-Professional Company, for Harmony School of Creative Arts, and for Agni Entertainment.
Orlando Julius Canova began his ballet training with Lawrence and Sarma Rosenberg at the Anaheim Ballet School. At age 16 he moved to New York City to train at the School of American Ballet. There, he received a full tuition merit scholarship and was sponsored by Debbie Allen. Orlando furthered his ballet training with Miami City Ballet School. In 2001, Orlando became an Arpino Apprentice with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and in 2003 he joined as a full company member. While at Joffrey, Orlando played the part of apprentice in Robert Altman's movie, The Company.
At Ballet Austin Orlando has danced lead roles in The Nutcracker, Cult of Color: Call to Color, Truth & Beauty: The Bach Project, Romeo & Juliet, Nine Sinatra Songs, silence within silence and The Magic Flute. He has worked with such choreographers as Stephen Mills, Twyla Tharp, KT Nelson, Dominic Walsh, Nicolo Fonte, Sonya Delwaide, Toni Bravo, Michelle Thompson, Reginald Harris, and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Orlando has also had the pleasure of dancing for Molly Lynch’s National Choreographers Initiative in 2012 and 2013. There he worked with Darrell Moultrie, Melissa Barak, Val Caniparoli, Frank Chavez, Kitty McNamee, and Susan McCullough. In addition, Orlando teaches dance at the Ballet Austin Academy, the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness, Saint Mary’s Hall, Austin City Ballet, and Alamo Heights High School.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Penn., Carr received his first 12 years of ballet training at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School. After graduating high school, he continued his training at Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto, where he had the privilege to work with choreographers including James Kudelka, Toer van Schayk, and Rudi van Dantzig. Carr moved to Austin in 2006 to attend Ballet Austin’s trainee program and joined the main company in 2008 after one season as an apprentice. Since joining Ballet Austin, he has been featured in Stephen Mills’ Light/The Holocaust and Humanity Project, premiered as The Beast in Mills' Belle REDUX / A Tale of Beauty & the Beast, and has been featured in works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Lar Lubovitch, Pam Tanowitz, Pontus Lidberg, Nicolo Fonte, and Jennifer Hart. Carr recently appeared in visual artist Rodney McMillian’s film Untitled (neighbors), part of McMillian’s first solo exhibition Against a Civic Death at The Contemporary Austin. Carr also serves as the associate director to local contemporary dance company Performa/Dance, founded in 2014 by Carr and local choreographer Jennifer Hart. Performa/Dance continues to expand its reach and produce dance for the Austin scene and has been recognized with several Austin Critics Table Awards.
Katherine is originally from St. Paul, Minn. She began her pre-professional training at Minnesota Dance Theatre under Lise Houlton. She became an apprentice with MDT in 2013, where she danced works by Loyce Houlton, Lise Houlton, Elliot Feld, and Emery LeCrone, among others. In 2014, she was invited to attend the School of American Ballet. While at SAB, she participated in multiple Choreographic Institute’s where she originated roles by Dana Genshaft and Peter Walker. She also appeared in SAB’s annual Workshop performance in Jerome Robbins' Fanfare as well as George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. As an apprentice with Ballet Austin, she has had the opportunity to dance works by Stephen Mills, Michelle Thompson, Thang Dao and Septime Webre. Most recently, she appeared in Jennifer Hart’s Fellow Travelers with Performa/Dance.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Constance trained until age 17 under Gigi Hyatt and Janusz Mazon. At 17, she was invited to study year-round at the School of American Ballet in New York City. There she performed George Balanchine's Serenade, Western Symphony, and Valse Fantaisie during the school's Workshop performances, and was featured in a 2015 PBS "Live from Lincoln Center" national broadcast. She was repeatedly invited to dance in the annual New York Choreographic Institute and to participate as both dancer and choreographer in SAB's Student Choreographic Workshop. In 2015 she began her apprenticeship with Ballet Austin, and in 2017 was invited to join the main company. At Ballet Austin, she has particularly enjoyed dancing the principal couple in Stephen Mill's Touch, George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante, and was honored to join the company in their month-long tour of China. She is thankful to her parents, whose love and sacrifices made her career possible, and she dances to glorify God and magnify His beauty.
Originally from Lafayette, La., Hailey began her ballet training at The Ballet Studio and later Lafayette Ballet Theatre. She has attended the summer programs of American Ballet Theatre (NYC), Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet, The School of American Ballet (SAB) and Ballet Austin. At 15, Hailey was awarded full scholarship to study year round at SAB where she then trained for three years. While at SAB, she performed in the Student's Annual Workshop performances. She had the pleasure of performing Dance of the Little Swans in George Balanchine's Swan Lake, Danses Concertantes, The Four Temperaments and Jerome Robbins' Fanfare. She also participated in SAB's Student Choreographic Workshop and was selected to participate in lecture demonstration programs for New York public schools. Hailey joined Ballet Austin II in 2016 and was promoted to the main company in 2017. She would like to thank her parents for their continued support.
James Fuller is from Irvine, Calif., and was trained at Ballet Pacifica Conservatory. In 2004, James received a Youth America Grand Prix scholarship to study at the Boston Ballet School, where he completed his final year of training. James apprenticed with Oregon Ballet Theatre for a year before enrolling at Harvard University. At Harvard, James performed works by choreographers such as Paul Taylor, Martha Graham, George Balanchine, and Alvin Ailey. In the summers, James studied modern dance with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, American Dance Festival, and Beijing LDTX. James directed the Harvard Ballet Company in 2009 and graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Philosophy, a secondary field in dramatic arts, and a language citation in Urdu-Hindi. Since joining Ballet Austin, James has performed in original works by Stephen Mills, including Luminaria and Though the Earth Gives Way, danced in Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, performed with the National Choreographers Initiative, and choreographed for Houston City Dance.
An Austinite by birth, Oliver was raised in southern Vermont and received his early training at the Brattleboro School of Dance and Burklyn Ballet Theatre. He graduated from the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance with a BFA - Ballet Concentration and was given the award for Outstanding Senior in Modern Dance. While at Purchase, Oliver danced in works by George Balanchine, Merce Cunningham, Lar Lubovitch, Nicolo Fonte, John Heginbotham, and Gabrielle Lamb. Immediately after graduation, he joined the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in New York City. Since joining Ballet Austin, Oliver has been featured in works by Stephen Mills, Lar Lubovitch, Pontus Lidberg, Pam Tanowitz, Septime Webre, Jimmy Orrante, and Nelly van Bommel. In the summer of 2017, he toured Thang Dao's award-winning duet We Circle the Night to the Danza in Arte a Pietrasanta Festival in Italy. Oliver was recently a performer in Rodney McMillian's Untitled (neighbors) as part of Against a Civic Death funded by the inaugural Susan Deal Booth Art Prize exhibited at the Contemporary Austin. He is also a member of Performa/Dance, an Austin-based dance company directed by Jennifer Hart and Edward Carr.
Courtney Holland was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and at the age of 11 began her professional training at Canada’s National Ballet School. After graduating from NBS in 2010, Courtney moved to New York City to continue her training at the Dance Theatre of Harlem on a full scholarship. In June 2012, she was a finalist at the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition. She was awarded a full scholarship to the Banff Centre’s Professional Dance Program where she appeared as a guest artist in the Arts Summer Festival, performing George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco and Christopher Wheeldon’s Souvenirs. In 2013, Courtney joined Charlotte Ballet II where she performed works by George Balanchine, Dwight Rhoden, Sasha Janes, Mark Diamond and Jean- Pierre Bonnefoux. There she had the privilege to perform featured roles in The Nutcracker and the role of the Autumn Fairy in Cinderella, under the direction of Kennedy Center Honoree Patricia McBride. Since joining Ballet Austin in 2016, Courtney has had the pleasure of dancing several of Stephen Mills’ ballets as well as works by Septime Webre and Pam Tanowitz. She enjoyed performing Justin Peck’s In Creases and was featured in Paul Vasterling’s Peter Pan as Tinker Bell. Courtney feels very blessed to have the love and support of her family and is excited for her third season with Ballet Austin.
Paul Martin began his ballet and dance training in West Des Moines, Iowa, under the tutelage of Hank and Beth Adams. With their guidance, Paul was able to earn scholarships to notable summer intensive programs to include the Kansas City Ballet School, Nutmeg Conservatory, San Francisco Ballet School and Ballet Austin. In 2014, Paul received a scholarship to study full time at the Kansas City Ballet School. This program enabled him to advance his training and culminated in a performance opportunity with Kansas City Ballet II. Since joining Ballet Austin II in 2015, he has been able to perform lead roles as The Judge in Nick Kepley’s Season of Innocence and The Prince in Nelly Van Bommel’s Snow White. Additionally, he has performed in Jennifer Hart’s Spaces and in Stephen Mills’ The Nutcracker and Touch. Paul has found artistic joy and growth working with Ballet Austin and looks forward to joining the main company for the 2017/18 season.
Grace Morton is from Seattle, Wash. She received her early training from Vivian Little and Mary Reardon, school directors of Dance Fremont. In 2010 she began training under the direction of Damara Bennett in Oregon Ballet Theater's professional division. She had the chance to tour to Korea and performed in company productions of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker and Nicolo Fonte's world premiere of Petrushka. As a member of Ballet Austin II, she enjoyed performing featured roles in Stephen Mills' Luminaria, Jennifer Hart's Wavemakers, and Nelly Van Bommel's Snow White. After joining the company, Grace has performed roles in classical ballets such as French in Stephen Mills' The Nutcracker, Puss 'n Boots in The Sleeping Beauty, and Four Little Swans in Swan Lake. She has also had the pleasure to appear in George Balanchine's Agon, Stephen Mills' One/the body’s grace, Gabriel Lamb's Dovetail, James Gregg's The Space Between, and Jennifer Hart's To Here. Grace has danced in project-based company Performa/Dance, and appeared in Zilker Theatre Production's presentation of Oklahoma! as Dream Laurie. She is also a teacher in the Ballet Austin Academy.
Originally from Roseville, Calif., Kevin began his dance training at The Hawkins School of Performing Arts. He then went on to train at the San Francisco Ballet School for six years, with teachers such as Lola De Avila, Jean-Yves Esquerre, Parrish Maynard, and Jeffrey Lyons. Kevin then joined Ballet Austin II, and later the professional company. He has enjoyed dancing in roles such as Mercutio in Stephen Mills' Romeo and Juliet, the Dodo Bird in Septime Webre's ALICE (in Wonderland), as well as other works by Lar Lubovitch, Pam Tanowitz, Pontus Lidberg, and Justin Peck. Kevin has also worked with the Austin-based company Performa/Dance under the direction of Jennifer Hart and Edward Carr.
Preston Andrew Patterson was born in Atlanta, Ga., and began his dance studies at the Ballethnic Academy of Dance. At age 17 he attended the School of American Ballet and later the National Ballet School of Canada. As a member of Ballet Austin, Preston Patterson has had the privilege of performing in Stephen Mills’ Wolftanzt, Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project, Belle Redux / A Tale of Beauty & The Beast, George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, the Peasant Pas de Deux from Giselle, and the Blue Bird in Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty.
Elise Pekarek is originally from the Chicago area and began her early ballet training with the Judith Svalander School of Ballet under the direction of Judith Svalander and Greg Begley. Since joining the company in 2011, Elise has been honored to have been featured in several works by Stephen Mills' as well as Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, George Balanchine, Lar Lubovitch, Pam Tanowitz, Septime Webre, and Jimmy Orrante. She participated as a dancer in the National Choreographer's Initiative in 2017 and 2018. Elise has also performed in Austin-based projects such as Michelle Thompson's Illusory Impressions as well as with Performa/Dance, directed by Jennifer Hart and Edward Carr. In 2017, she performed Thang Dao's award-winning duet, We Circle The Night, for the Danza in Arte a Pietrasanta festival in Pietrasanta, Italy. Elise teaches classes for Ballet Austin's Pilates Center.
Chelsea Marie Renner, originally from Bozeman, Mont., received her early training from Ann Bates of Montana Ballet and Campbell Midgley of Queen City Ballet. Since joining Ballet Austin's main company, Chelsea has enjoyed performing principal roles in Stephen Mills' The Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Paul Vasterling's Peter Pan as Wendy. She has also enjoyed performing in Stephen Mills’ Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project, The Magic Flute, Kai, Hamlet, and as Rosalyn in Romeo & Juliet, along with George Balanchine's Agon, Nicolo Fonte's Lasting Imprint, and works by Nelly van Bommel, Gregory Dolbashian, Gabrielle Lamb, Jimmy Orrante, and Pam Tanowitz. In June of 2013, Chelsea was honored to travel to Washington, D.C., to perform Stephen Mills' Hush for Ballet Across America III at The Kennedy Center, and in September of that year joined the company in Israel for a three-city tour of Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project. Chelsea was the first recipient of the Sarah and Ernest Butler Scholarship in 2006. When not in the studio, Chelsea loves spending her time with her 3-year-old son, Landon, her husband, Aaron, and running her home-based skin care business with Rodan & Fields. Chelsea would like to thank Aaron, her parents, and her grandparents for their endless love and support.
Leanna Rinaldi was born in Fort Bragg, N.C. Her family moved to Nolensville, Tenn. where she began taking dance classes at age 3. She trained at Franklin School of Performing Arts until age 11 when her family relocated to Frisco, Texas. She continued her training there at Chamberlain Performing Arts under the direction of Kathy Chamberlain. She attended summer intensives at the School of American Ballet and Miami City Ballet School. After graduating high school and completing her second summer at MCB School, she received a scholarship for the year-round program in 2011. As a student, Rinaldi was given many opportunities to dance with the company and was hired as a company apprentice in 2013 and promoted to the corps de ballet there in 2014.
Originally from the Chicago area, Ashley received her pre-professional training from Sherry Moray. She began her career with Alabama Ballet under the direction of Wes Chapman and Roger Van Fleteren. Since joining Ballet Austin, her personal highlights have been dancing the roles of Giselle, Odette/Odile, Juliet, and Ophelia in Stephen Mills’ Hamlet, receiving an Austin Critic’s Table Award for her performance. Ashley had the honor of originating the role of Pamina in Mills’ The Magic Flute, as well as premiering many of his contemporary works, and touring with the company to China, Israel, Italy, Slovenia, The Joyce Theater, and The Kennedy Center. She has also danced the principal pas de deux in Balanchine’s Agon, Lar Lubovitch’s Dvořák Serenade, and Pontus Lidberg’s Stream. Ashley has made guest appearances with National Choreographer’s Initiative, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, and Performa/Dance. She is an alumna of St. Edward's University, and a private yoga instructor with specialization in Restorative yoga and Ayurveda. When she is not dancing or teaching, Ashley enjoys spending time with her new baby boy. She would like to thank her husband, Joshua, and her family for their generous support.
Morgan Stillman began his ballet training with Project Ballet in Fort Wayne, Ind., and attended Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. In 2014, he joined Nevada Ballet Theatre and performed principal and soloist roles in James Canfield and Balanchine repertoire. Morgan joined Ballet Austin's professional company in 2017.
Brittany Strickland is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She attended the North Carolina School of the Arts (now the University of NCSA) from 2001-2007 where she trained under Melissa Hayden, Nina Danilova, and Kee-Juan Han. With NCSA, Brittany was privileged to perform George Balanchine’s Serenade at the Hollywood Bowl as well as performing featured roles in The Nutcracker, La Fille mal Gardee, La Sonnambula and Jardin Anime. Following graduation she continued her training with Ballet Austin under full scholarship. With Ballet Austin II she was privileged to perform featured roles in works such as Thang Dao’s Quiet Imprint and Stephen Mills’ Touch as well as performing with the company in Mills’ Coppelia and his world premiere of The Firebird. Since joining the company, she has enjoyed performing in works such as Mills' The Taming of the Shrew, The Nutcracker, Carmina Burana, and Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project. In her free time, Brittany also teaches in the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness.
Originally born in Stavropol, Russia, Maxim was raised in an orphanage until the age of 5, when he was adopted by two loving and caring parents. He began his training at the Marin Dance Theater in 2008 under the direction of Margaret Swarthout. In 2014, Maxim began studying at the San Francisco Ballet School with a full scholarship under Patrick Armand, where he danced the lead roles in Balanchine's Serenade and in John Neumeier's Yondering. He also performed in San Francisco Ballet's performance tour of Cinderella in Washington D.C., as well as character roles in Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker. Maxim joined Ballet Austin's Butler Fellowship program for the 2017/18 season, was promoted to Ballet Austin II the following season, and makes his professional company debut in 2019/20.
Jaime Lynn Witts is originally from Bucks County, Penn., where she received most of her training from Maxim Ponomarenko, Oleg Briansky, and Mireille Briane. She attended summer programs at CPYB, Boston Ballet, and Ballet Austin. There, she continued her studies with Truman Finney in Ballet Austin's Trainee program before joining Ballet Austin II. Since joining the company, Witts has performed in works by numerous choreographers including Stephen Mills, Thaddeus Davis, KT Nelson, Nicolo Fonte, Sidra Bell, Viktor Kabaniaev, Nelly van Bommel, Loni Landon, Jennifer Hart, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Gabrielle Lamb and Gina Patterson. She has enjoyed performing principal roles in George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante and Agon,Swanhilda in Coppelia, Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty and Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, for which she earned her second Austin Critics Table Award. Most recently she has made her premier as the title role in Mills’ The Firebird. Witts has also had the honor of performing the role of The Survivor in Mills' Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project in Austin and on tour in Miami and Israel. When she is not dancing, Witts enjoys spending her time off with her daughter, Evaline.
Be in the know, before the show!
Immerse yourself in the world of dance before every performance at the Long Center by checking out Ballet-o-mania!
Arrive early and explore our interactive discovery lounge, featuring informational videos, costume and music samples, and behind-the-scenes info on the production, the choreographers, the dancers and musicians. You can "ask a dancer" anything you'd like to know about the art form, see and touch pointe shoes, and learn more about the dance works and the creative process.
Ballet-o-mania! is located on the 2nd-Floor/Mezzannine Level in the Kodosky Lounge or West Mezzanine Lounge for select performances. The exhibits open 90 minutes before show time and remain open to guests during all intermissions. So take your time and explore our engaging exhibits at your leisure.
Free for all Ticket Holders; present show ticket at Ballet-o-mania! entrance for complimentary admission.
An hour before every show, join us for a look at the final preparations for the ballet during our Footlights pre-show information session. Enjoy the last-minute workings of dancers and production crew as you learn about the historical, choreographic, and artistic aspects of the production you are about to see. Footlights for Families offers the same preview with content tailored for families with children ages 12 and younger and is offered before designated matinee performances. This informal lecture takes place inside the theater on the 2nd Floor/Mezzanine Level one hour prior to Ballet Austin performances at the Long Center.
Length of Program: Approximately 25 minutes
Free for all Ticket Holders
Join Ballet Austin dancers and staff, including Artistic Director / Choreographer Stephen Mills, for an informal post-performance conversation and Q&A.
Encore takes place inside the theater on the 1st Floor/Orchestra Level immediately following all performances at the Long Center.
Length of Program: Approximately 15 minutes
Free for all Ticket holders
Avoid the traffic by arriving early (and staying later) at the Long Center! We have an entire lineup of engaging activities planned for your before and after each performance, including our Ballet-o-mania! Interactive Discovery Lounge, which features new exhibits every show, and Footlights pre-show information sessions. Food and beverage stations are open on every floor serving cocktails, refreshments, and snacks for purchase before the show and during intermissions.
All times related to the performance subject to change. Evening performances begin at 8 p.m. CT., and Sunday's matinee begins at 3 p.m. CT.
|6:30 p.m. evenings; 1:30 p.m. matinee||Box Office Opens||Long Center||Located outside on the Ground Level, next to the Grand Staircase.|
|6:30 p.m. evenings; 1:30 p.m. matinee||Doors Open||Long Center||Ground Level entrance through Rollins Lobby. Orchestra Lobby entrance on first floor (Terrace Level) by Grand Staircase.|
|6:30 p.m. evenings; 1:30 p.m. matinee||Ballet-o-mania! Interactive Discovery Lounge Opens||Kodosky Lounge | 2nd Floor | Mezzanine Level||Remains open through start of performance|
|7 p.m. evenings; 2 p.m. matinee||Footlights | Pre-Show Info Session||2nd Floor | Mezzanine Level | Entrances 23 & 24||Duration is approximately 25 minutes|
|8 p.m. evenings; 3 p.m. matinee||GRIMM TALES (80 minutes) | NO INTERMISSION||Dell Hall | All Levels||Choreography by Stephen Mills|
|9:20 p.m. evenings; 4:20 p.m. matinee||Program concludes||Long Center | All Levels|
|Immediately following performance||Encore | Post-Show Q&A||Dell Hall | Orchestra Level||Duration is approximately 15 minutes|
Before the performance begins, please remind children not to talk or ask questions during the performance and to remain seated without touching or kicking the seat in front of them. Remember, when the lights dim and the music which is part of the performance begins, it is quiet time.
Is My Child Ready to Attend?
Parents know best if their child is able to quietly enjoy a full-length performance. The following questions will help you decide if your child is ready:
Please note that there are no refunds, credits, or exchanges if you must leave the theater because your child was unhappy or disruptive.
Water and beverages purchased from the bar with a lid are allowed inside the theater during the performance. Food is not allowed inside the auditorium. Please be courteous of other guests enjoying the performance.
Tickets are revocable and may be taken up at any time for any reason.
Ballet Austin does not enforce a formal dress code for performances; however, we are often asked by guests for suggested attire.
While our audience members tend to dress more formally for evening shows, "business casual" attire, including dresses/sundresses, blouses, skirts, dress pants, nice polo shirts, button-up shirts, sports coats and/or suits are always welcome at evening and matinee performances held at the Long Center and at our own AustinVentures StudioTheater at Ballet Austin.
Both performance venues are air-conditioned, and if you typically need a sweater, shawl or jacket in places like restaurants or movie theaters, it's a good idea to bring one with you to the ballet.
If you have questions or need advice on what to wear, contact Audience Services at 512.476.2163, weekdays from noon. to 6 p.m. CT. We're happy of offer guidance!
Ballet Austin's Audience Services Team is available via phone at 512.476.2163, Monday through Friday, noon. to 6 p.m. CT (available weekdays except major holidays) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call us if you need help purchasing season or individual performance tickets and if you need your tickets replaced or reprinted. We can also assist you with online ticket purchases, give you directions to the Butler Dance Education Center (501 W. 3rd Street) and our performance venues, and share tips on parking, special events, and attractions near our downtown studios.
If you need to reach the Audience Services Team during the weekends, please email us at email@example.com.
During performance dates, Audience Services Team members will be available in person at the Long Center Box Office 90 minutes before the performance begins. Audience Services Team members will also be available in person for performances scheduled in our Austin/Ventures Studio/Theater (located in the Butler Dance Education Center | 501 W. 3rd Street) 90 minutes before show time.
Please note: Ballet Austin does not operate a walk-up box office location in the Butler Dance Education Center. Give us a call at 512.476.2163 any time you need personal assistance!
Tickets may be purchased through Ballet Austin's official website, at my.balletaustin.org, 24 hours a day. Please note that online ticket sales for individual performances will close two hours prior to show time on the day of the performance. Audience members interested in purchasing tickets within two hours of show time may do so at the Long Center Box Office (701 W. Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78704), which opens 90 minutes prior curtain. Tickets are subject to availability.
Accessible seating is available at both the Long Center and the Butler Dance Education Center. Elevators at the Long Center can be accessed in the Rollins Lobby on the ground level and service all levels.
Upon request, Ballet Austin can make an audio describer available for visually impaired individuals. Those seeking audio decription services should contact Ballet Austin Audience Services at 512. 476.2163 at least one month prior to scheduled performances in order to arrange for audio description services at the chosen performance(s).
For more information regarding these accommodations or to purchase tickets in accessible seating locations, please contact the Ballet Austin box office at 512.476.2163.
College students can purchase up to two (2) tickets with a valid college ID for $15 per ticket (Parterre, Mezzanine or Balcony seating as available) on the day of the performance at the Long Center box office. The box office will open 90 minutes prior to curtain at the Long Center. Student Rush tickets will be offered based on availability.
Ballet Austin offers the following discounts:
Please note these discounts are not applicable to The Nutcracker or Ballet Austin II performances and are only available for purchase in-person or by calling the Ballet Austin Box Office at 512.476.2163.
Lap seating is available for children under the age of 3 free of charge. A lap seat ticket is required for entry and may be picked up at the box office prior to the performance.
Please be courteous of other guests and step outside the theater into the lobby if your child is crying or being disruptive.
Ballet Austin Season Ticket Holders may exchange tickets for a different performance date or a different production at no cost. Free ticket exchanges are offered only to Season Ticket Holders. There is no guarantee that tickets can be exchanged for the exact seats purchased.
Please contact Ballet Austin's Audience Services Team at 512.476.2163 no later than 24 hours prior to the originally scheduled performance to exchange your tickets.
For non-season ticket holders, a $5 exchange fee per order will be applied to ALL ticket exchanges.
Please be courteous of other guests enjoying the performance.
Tickets are revocable licenses that may be taken up at any time for any reason upon refunding the purchase price.
On this level, you’ll find:
Elevators are conveniently located inside Rollins Lobby. The Rollins Lobby entrance is located on the ground, across from them Long Center Box Office. Audience members with mobility issues may request an usher's assistance to enter the building and access their seats.
On this level, you’ll find:
Note: Access to Encore, Ballet Austin's post-performance Q&A session in Dell Hall, is available via the Orchestra Level (all entrances).
On this level you'll find:
On this level you'll find: