'Light' Dawns in Austin

Ballet advocates tolerance in ambitious community project

Stephen Mills
Stephen Mills

For six decades, survivors of the Holocaust have cried out, "Never forget!" But their message grows fainter as fewer and fewer of them survive to remind us. Many have wondered, as they pass on, who will take up their call and speak out against bigotry and hatred?

This season, Ballet Austin and the College of Education at UT-Austin are adding their voices to the cause. On Tuesday, Jan. 25, the two institutions made public their commitment to promote educational activities regarding the Holocaust and human rights and encourage both individual and community commitment to a more tolerant society in Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project. The joint initiative, which teams them with community leaders and partnering organizations Holocaust Museum Houston, the Warren Family Foundation, Jewish Community Association of Austin, Austin Independent School District, and the Anti-Defamation League – launches this week with two months' worth of community events, from public lectures to professional development opportunities for teachers, from a televised town hall meeting on tolerance to a new ballet by Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills exploring the power of the human spirit and the importance of individual responsibility.

Mills traveled to Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, studying the death camps of Nazi Germany and the people who survived them. "Sadly, we are losing the last generation of Holocaust survivors," he says. "With this ballet I aim to honor these courageous individuals, their memories, and their experiences." To music by Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Arvo Pärt, the work will examine responses to life before, during, and after the Holocaust.

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