Ballet Austin Embarks on 3M Innovation Initiative

September 25, 2012

Press Releases

Ballet Austin Embarks on 3M Innovation Initiative

Unique commission allows Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills to explore the concept of innovation through dance


AUSTIN, TX – September 24, 2012 – Ballet Austin today announces that Artistic Director/Choreographer Stephen Mills has been awarded a special 3M Innovation Commission to create an original dance work.

The project allows Mills an unprecedented opportunity to research, design and create a full-length work that will be world premiered in Austin. The project will center on the concept of innovation; a core attribute that defines the decades of success of 3M as an international company, and is the foundation of Ballet Austin’s identity as a dance company that continues to produce new work.

For more than a century—through a culture of shared ideas, risk taking, and forming uncommon connections that invent change—3M has led the world in the field of innovation and ideas that change lives. Through Ballet Austin’s “classically innovative” approach to the art of ballet, the initiative promises to be a match that— while on the surface may seem unconventional—is strikingly seamless.

Ballet Austin Board member and 3M Executive Vice  President Dr. Joaquin Delgado developed the concept for this commission and approached Stephen Mills himself.

“People think of innovation as a process, but it is more and deeper, it is a culture,” Dr. Delgado says. “The attainment of a culture of innovation is what has made 3M successful for over a century. Cultures are made by people and the ‘innovation culture’ is no exception. Innovation touches our lives in so many ways every single day.  I am excited to see how Stephen Mills and Ballet Austin will bring innovation to the stage and communicate the magic of humans working together in the search of innovation. And—through the beauty of human movement that transports us to the midst of the culture of innovation—capture our hearts and imaginations forever.”

Mills will conduct research and planning through July 2013, during which time he will visit and consult with 3M international scientists, inventors and experts to explore this context for the process of innovation.

“3M is a pioneer in changing lives through innovation. That, to me, is art; creativity at its highest level,” explains Mills. “I’m interested in exploring how creativity happens in manufacturing and to consult with 3M experts on how they invent, create, innovate.”

Mills will then return to the studio to work with Ballet Austin Company Dancers to create the full-length work that is scheduled to premiere in 2014.

About Stephen Mills, Artistic Director

Known for his innovative and collaborative choreographic projects, Stephen Mills has works in the repertories of companies across the US and around the world. From his inaugural season as Artistic Director in 2000, Mills attracted attention from around the United States with his world-premiere production of Hamlet, hailed by Dance Magazine as “…sleek and sophisticated.” The Washington Post recognized Ballet Austin as “one of the nation’s best-kept secrets” in 2004 for Ballet Austin performance of Mills’ world premiere The Taming of the Shrew, commissioned by and performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The Company was first invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in January of 2002 with the Mills production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and at The Joyce Theater (NYC) in 2004, and returns to the Kennedy Center stage in June 2013 through Ballet Across America III.  In 2005, after two years of extensive research, Mills led a community-wide human rights collaboration that culminated in the world premiere work Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project. In 2006 Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project was awarded Austin Anti-Defamation League’s Audrey & Raymond Maislin Humanitarian Award. The collaboration returned to Austin in 2012 with more than 45 community partners and travels to Miami in November 2012, Denver in March 2013 and Israel in September 2013.

In 1998, Mills was the choreographer chosen to represent the U.S. through his work, Ashes, at the Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in Paris. Most recently, Mr. Mills was awarded the Steinberg Award, the top honor at the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur International Choreographic Competition for One/The Body’s Grace.

Mr. Mills has created more than 40 works for companies in the United States and abroad. His ballets are in the repertories of such companies as The Hong Kong Ballet, American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, The Atlanta Ballet, The Milwaukee Ballet, Washington Ballet, Cuballet in Havana, Cuba, BalletMet Columbus, The Dayton Ballet, The Sarasota Ballet of Florida, Ballet Pacifica, Dallas Black Dance Theater, The Louisville Ballet, The Nashville Ballet, Ft. Worth/Dallas Ballet, The Sacramento Ballet, Colorado Ballet and Dance Kaleidoscope. He has worked in collaboration with such luminaries as the eight-time Grammy Award-winning band, Asleep at the Wheel, Shawn Colvin and internationally renowned flamenco artist José Greco II.

About Ballet Austin

As distinctive and dynamic as the city it calls home, Ballet Austin welcomes audiences near and far to participate in its “classically innovative” vision for the democratization of dance. With a rich history spanning five decades, acclaimed productions, a commitment to creating access to programs and one of the nation’s largest classical ballet academies, the organization is poised for an even greater future. From their home at the Butler Dance Education Center in downtown Austin, Ballet Austin and Artistic Director Stephen Mills actively engage the community, dancers, and audiences alike.  The New York Times proclaims Ballet Austin “a company with big ambitions” originating work that is “absorbing.”

About 3M

3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of ingenious products. Our culture of creative collaboration inspires a never-ending stream of powerful technologies that make life better. 3M is the innovation company that never stops inventing. With $30 billion in sales, 3M employs 84,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 65 countries, including facilities in Austin, Texas.

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