Ballet Austin’s Upcoming Season Presents an Acclaimed and Contemporary Take on ‘Hamlet’
Artistic Director Stephen Mills discusses the 2023/24 Season and the return of one of his most famous works
In 2000, Ballet Austin’s Artistic Director Stephen Mills debuted his production of Shakespeare’s enduring drama Hamlet at Bass Concert Hall. Now, the critically acclaimed and popular show is returning to the Long Center from September 15 to 17.
During Mills’ first season as Ballet Austin’s Artistic Director, he felt inspired to break tradition and produce one of the first ballet versions of Hamlet. The thrilling show which marked his first full-length production and his first full-length contemporary dance has since become Mills’ most licensed and traveled work that has been performed in theaters across the U.S. and internationally.
The award-winning work tells the story of one of the most renowned tragedies in the English language; a complex tale of revenge, betrayal, and love. Mills’ version makes itself more accessible to modern audiences through various stylistic choices. His main focus is to tell a story that is emotionally true to Shakespeare’s masterpiece.
A complex tragedy made more relevant to modern audiences through Mills’ stylistic contemporary choices
“The art that I am drawn to is work that speaks to me on a personal level,” says Mills. “There was nothing about having it set in Denmark in the 1600s that seemed very relevant to me. So I found a way to tease out the themes of the work that would be relevant to a contemporary audience and then set it in a contemporary setting. I think that’s what has made the work successful because people have been able to find elements of themselves in the story. I see myself all over this story, and I’m sure certain other people do as well.”
The setting of Mills’ Hamlet is not in a precisely identifiable place or era. Employing a minimalistic yet fantastical set and Giorgio Armani-inspired costumes, the Ballet Austin team creates a timeless world more recognizable to audiences today. Guiding the bewitching choreography is the richly textured music of American composer Phillip Glass.
“I think Hamlet is one of the most special stories ever written by Shakespeare…maybe that’s ever been written,” adds Mills. “Hamlet has always been relevant. The politics of this particular family, the issues they confront in terms of desire for power at all costs and deceit, those are really relevant topics right now. There are elements of each character to which everyone on earth can relate. Art helps us understand life; that’s what I hope people take out of this when they leave the theatre.”
Highlights of Ballet Austin’s 2023/24 season to come
Following Hamlet, Ballet Austin’s 2023/24 Season will include The Nutcracker, Triad, Poe, and The Sleeping Beauty.
Poe, coming in March, is a particularly exciting show to look out for. The world premiere of Mills’ latest production will tell the personal story of great American writer Edgar Allen Poe. As a lifelong fan, Mills intends to pay tribute to the life and literature of the powerful, distinct and haunted artist.
Stephen Mills’ Hamlet takes to the stage at the Long Center for the Performing Arts for three performances from September 15-17. Visit balletaustin.org for tickets and more information on the rest of the 2023/24 Season.