Ballet Austin Rehearses for World Premiere Performance of Poe / A Tale of Madness
Mar 17, 2024

Ballet Austin Rehearses for World Premiere Performance of Poe / A Tale of Madness

Reporting Texas TV

AUSTIN, Texas – A new show reflecting the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe will premiere March 22.

Ballet Austin artistic director Stephen Mills choreographed Poe / A Tale of Madness” to showcase the author’s troubled life of Poe

“I think that dance is most effective when you can get to the metaphor of an idea, and that doesn’t always happen in classical ballet,” Mills said.

The Butler New Choreography Endowment commissioned the show through a gift granted by Sarah and Ernest Butler in 2016. Graham Reynolds composed the music, performed by the Austin Symphony Orchestra. 

Mills said the theme of the ballet revolves around ideas presented in Poe’s work such as love, death and trauma, referencing “The Raven.” 

Turning a timeless work of art into a ballet is not new for Mills. He choreographed classics for Ballet Austin including “Grimm Tales” in 2019 and “Hamlet” in 2023

Ballet Austin artistic director Stephen Mills and executive director Cookie Ruiz participate in a Q&A on the new ballet at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 20, 2024. Donors, dancers and Ballet Austin Guild members attended. (Paulina Pearson/Reporting Texas TV)

Grasping parts of a gothic piece of literature and morphing it into another medium might seem difficult, yet some literature experts like UT English associate professor Elizabeth Richmond-Garza believe the practice to be an homage.

“I really like to see what can you do with a successful novel, even a poem, especially if it’s a longer poem, especially a performative medium,” Richmond-Garza said..

Alexandra Lee Owens, a dancer at Ballet Austin and student at UT, said the show will be interesting. 

“I was a little bit intrigued, and that’s still how I feel because I don’t entirely know what it’s all going to look like since every day we come in [Mills] is making new stuff. I’m excited to be a part of it,” Owens said.

Ballet Austin dancers rehearse for the upcoming show “Poe / A Tale of Madness” in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 23, 2024. Rehearsals started earlier that week with partner dances. (Paulina Pearson/Reporting Texas TV)

The show will feature around 20 dancers with intricate 19th-century costumes in a contemporary set. Mills said the contrast between the costumes and the set will portray the idea that Poe’s work can still resonate with people today. The costumes are designed by Margaret Mitchell, with the male dancers wearing top hats and the women wearing dresses that create a silhouette. 

“I think Poe is relevant because the dark themes that are present in his stories also are relevant today,” Mills said.

Mills has been the artistic director of Ballet Austin since 2000 and has created over 40 works on his own throughout the country and internationally.

“Poe / A Tale of Madness” will come to life March 22-24 at the Long Center. Tickets are available on Ballet Austin’s website, with student discounts based on availability.