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The ghosts dance through the night...
Ballet Austin presents the World Premiere of Stephen Mills’ dance film, PRELUDES/BEGINNINGS, offered free of charge to the public and available online now through May 2nd. Set to Frédéric Chopin’s 24 Preludes for solo piano and filmed on-site at the historic Scottish Rite Theater, the ballet is both a reflection of the history of the theater and an acknowledgment of the challenging year experienced by all.
Whispers of the past and present come together in the dark of the Scottish Rite Theater, where it has been said that the spirits of the convalescents housed there during the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic still roam the corridors to this day. The film is centered around the tradition of a “ghost light” being placed on stage at night while the theater is empty to keep the ghosts from haunting. However, in PRELUDES/BEGINNINGS, the ghosts come out to dance through the night, returning to the rafters before dawn. This work, performed by Ballet Austin’s Company dancers, honors what has been lost while keeping hope that new beginnings are on the horizon.
PRELUDES/BEGINNINGS is dedicated to the front-line workers from 1918 and today.
Choreography: Stephen Mills
Music: Frédéric Chopin, Performed by Martha Argerich
Director and Editor: Paul Michael Bloodgood
Photography: Jordan Moser and Paul Michael Bloodgood
Parental guidance suggested. Recommended for viewers ages 10 and up.
PAUL MICHAEL BLOODGOOD
Director & Editor
Known for his innovative and collaborative choreographic projects, Stephen Mills has works in the repertoires of dance companies across the United States and around the world.
His international career began in 1998 after being chosen Prix d’Auteur at les Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in Paris. In his inaugural season as Artistic Director of Ballet Austin in 2000, Mills attracted national attention with Hamlet, hailed by Dance Magazine as “…sleek and sophisticated.”
Mills’ works showcased at The Kennedy Center include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, and performances at the Ballet Across America Festival in collaboration with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet.
In 2005 Mills developed a community-wide human rights collaborative dialogue culminating in his signature work Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project for which he received the Audrey and Raymond Maislin Humanitarian Award from The Anti-Defamation League. Mills contributed a podcast about Light to the Voices on Anti-Semitism series at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was invited to speak about the work at The United Nations in 2014. Light has been performed in five U.S. cities, in three cities in Israel, and was recently featured in an Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary, Sharing Light.
Considered Poland’s greatest composer, Frédéric Chopin focused his efforts on piano composition and was a strong influence on composers who followed him.
Who Was Frédéric Chopin?
Frédéric Chopin was a renowned Polish and French composer who published his first composition at age 7 and began performing one year later. In 1832, he moved to Paris, socialized with high society, and was known as an excellent piano teacher. His piano compositions were highly influential.
By 1818, Chopin was performing in elegant salons and writing his own compositions, including the Polonaise in G Minor. By 1826, he had composed several piano pieces in different styles, and his parents enrolled him in the Warsaw Conservatory of Music, where he studied for three years under Polish composer Josef Elsner.
However, sensing he needed a broader musical experience, Chopin’s parents eventually sent him to Vienna, where he made his performance debut in 1829. Audiences were enthralled with his highly technical yet poetically expressive performances. Over the next few years, Chopin performed in Poland, Germany, Austria and Paris, France, where he settled in 1832. There he quickly established relationships with other young composers, among them Franz Liszt, Vincenzo Bellini and Felix Mendelssohn.
Life in Paris
While in Paris, Chopin found his delicate style didn’t always enthrall the larger concert audiences, who had been exposed to the works of Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven. A fortuitous introduction to the Rothschild family opened new doors, however, and Chopin soon found employment in the great parlors of Paris as both recitalist and teacher. His increased income allowed him to live well and compose such pieces as Nocturnes of Opp. 9 and 15, the Scherzo in B-flat minor, Op. 31 and the Sonata in B-flat minor, Op. 35.
Final Years and Death
By the mid-1840s, both Chopin’s health and his relationship with Sand were deteriorating. His behavior had also become erratic, possibly due to an undiagnosed form of epilepsy. Their affair ended in 1848 after, among other things, Sand’s unflattering portrayal of their relationship in her 1846 novel Lucrezia Floriani. In the end, both parties were too proud to reconcile, and Chopin’s spirit and health were broken. He made an extended tour to the British Isles, where he struggled under an exhausting schedule, making his last public appearance on November 16, 1848. He then returned to Paris, where he died on October 17, 1849, at age 39. His body was buried at Père Lachaise cemetery, but his heart was interred at a church in Warsaw, near the place of his birth.
Biographical excerpts courtesy of biography.com.
Filmmaker Paul Michael Bloodgood enjoyed an expansive 19-year career as a professional ballet dancer with Ballet Pacifica and Ballet Austin, performing in a myriad of principal roles around the world. Paul Michael earned his B.A. in Dance and the Humanities from St. Edward’s University while simultaneously pursuing his work in the film industry.
A member of SAG-AFTRA since 2003, Paul Michael is also a professional stunt performer with multiple appearances in seasons 5-7 of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD and the upcoming feature film, FREE DEAD OR ALIVE. As an actor, noteworthy roles include Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS, Forest Whitaker’s FIRST DAUGHTER starring Katie Holmes, Richard Linklater’s BERNIE starring Jack Black, as well as a supporting role alongside Mena Suvari and Jason Biggs in the music video for the film LOSER.
Executive produced by James Moll (FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH), Paul Michael’s feature documentary, TRENCHES OF ROCK, had its world premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival – ultimately receiving 12 accolades including multiple “Best Feature Documentary” and “Best Director” awards. A 4-time Austin Critics Table Award recipient, Paul Michael credits his extensive background in music and dance for his approach to storytelling.
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS
GOVERNMENT FUNDING SPONSORS
Supported in part by awards from the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding has been provided from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the CARES Act of 2020.