Ballet Austin’s Stephen Mills Is Making Headlines—Yet Again

Mills' ballet "Light," for Ballet AustinBallet Austin’s artistic director Stephen Mills knows how to keep busy. In October, National Arts Strategies named Mills one of 50 exceptional leaders who will head The Chief Executive Program. Over the course of a year, this group will focus on finding new ways to tackle big challenges facing the arts field and implementing these strategies in their own organizations.

The best part of this appointment? In an effort to raise arts awareness, National Arts Strategies will be giving Mills some well-deserved face time: The work he does with The Chief Executive Program will be shared on the NAS blog, in video interviews and NAS newsletters and at arts conferences.

Mills was chosen from a highly competitive pool of over 250 applications, but we’re not too surprised. In 2011, DT did a story on his impact with Ballet Austin. Earlier this year, as part of our June News section, we reported on the podcast he did with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about his 2005 ballet Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project. Congratulations to Mills and all of Ballet Austin!

Photo by Tony Spielberg, courtesy of Ballet Austin

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

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According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

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