OKC Ballet: A bright jewel in Oklahoma’s crown
By Kevin Jones
All large cities want to stand out. Oklahoma City has many jewels that residents can be proud of. One of the crown jewels of Oklahoma City is the Oklahoma City Ballet which began in 1963. Changes have come and gone over the years but one thing that hasn’t changed is the OKC Ballet’s commitment for excellence.
In 2008, a familiar and adored face graced the stage of the Oklahoma City Ballet when Robert Mills stepped into the role of Artistic Director. He was a former dancer for the OKC Ballet.
In an interview with Mills, it became apparent that not only did he love ballet; he is an extremely competent and impassioned leader. Beginning at the age of nine, Mills began training classically as a ballet dancer.
“I began dancing in a small studio in Northwest Indiana,” said the artistic director. “That particular studio had a teacher who trained with one of the best ballet schools in Chicago and because it was so close she opened her own studio in Northwest Indiana.”
When Mills reached for a skill level that was not available locally, he spent countless hours commuting, growing character and commitment to his chosen craft.
“Part of my teen life was taking a train, a suburban commuter train, from Northwest Indiana into downtown Chicago by myself. That is where I continued my training,” said Mills.
From Chicago, he began his professional performance career with a ballet company in Milwaukee, followed by Philadelphia, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and a company in the Pacific Northwest. He then transitioned from performer to the Artistic Director for a ballet company in Colorado, and then returned here, though it wasn’t ballet that brought Mills back to Oklahoma City.
“Strangely enough, I moved back here to be with my partner Phil. I moved back not really knowing what I was going to do after leaving the company in Colorado.”
After a vacancy left the Artistic Director position open with the company here in OKC, the board of directors was able to call on Mills for guidance. “The timing of it all was very strange, almost as if it were meant to be,” said Mills. According to the Ballet’s website, since Mills began directing in 2008, the ballet has added over 40 works, eight of which are originals.
For the 2016 season, the ballet features many brilliant productions, most recently Scheherazade, a triple bill which ran in late February, and the upcoming Peter Pan, which will run April 15-17. The classic children’s tale will take adults and children alike for a wonderful adventure to Neverland.
Mills emphasized not only is it the role of the ballet to bring beautiful artistic productions to the city, but to educate young minds to the wonder of the art of dance and the visual arts. He also encourages the LGBT community and its allies to be a more seen and robust part of the OKC ballet.
“I would like to see more gay people at the ballet. I’ve lived from east coast to west coast and many cities in between… living in Oklahoma City, I see less interest, it’s almost an anomaly, because I think you can easily get into the stereotype that the arts are appreciated by gay people, which is not always true.
“However, I’ve never lived in a community with such a small following from the gay community towards the arts.”
For more information about OKC Ballet visit www.okcballet.com.
The Gayly- 3/2/2016 @ 9:34 AM CST