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Stephen Mills' Hamlet?Looking for thoughts


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10 replies to this topic

#1 jonellew

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Posted 14 January 2009 - 02:03 PM

Ballet Austin is reviving this work next month. I haven't seen it, but from what I can tell, big contemporary ballets like it are Mills' strong suit. Does anyone who has seen it have any thoughts? I know it has been performed by several other companies in the U.S. besides Ballet Austin.

#2 Pointe1432

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 09:10 AM

Jonelle, do you have any thoughts on this topic now that you have seen it?

This is my favorite ballet, though I know I am of a slightly biased opinion. :)

-Pointe1432

#3 jonellew

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 03:24 PM

Hi, Pointe 1432!

Thanks for reminding me that I haven't gotten around to posting my thoughts on this ballet. In fact I liked it. I wish there had been a longer run so I could have seen it again. I saw the Sunday performance, and I thought Ashley Lynn was a touching, beautiful Ophelia and Frank Shott was suited to Hamlet. I had done a lot of research on this ballet, so I knew what to expect as far as the streamlined storyline and contemporary decor, but I was happy to see how it came together onstage. I found the ballet nice and concise, perfect for a company like Ballet Austin, and the effects and lighting were interesting. I especially like the dual projection of what looked like viscous red ooze as a background near the end of the ballet. Also, the fencing scene seemed done well and a nice touch of action for the audiences, especially since there isn't a lot of virtuosity in the choreography.
Finally, I was touched that the scene for Ophelia's death translated the part of the play that describes her death: the passage talks about how her garments "bore her up" for awhile but then "heavy with their drink,/ pulled the poor wretch from melodious lay/ to muddy death," and at the end of the scene in Mills' ballet, Ophelia is stripped of her clothes. It seems apparent that, at that moment, she is dead, free from the weight of her soaked dress and everything else wordly.

I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts on this ballet. Had you seen it both in 2000 and 2004?

#4 Pointe1432

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 03:49 PM

Hello again!

Thank you for posting!

Like I said, I know I am of a biased opinion, but was curious what you had to say. (I'll PM you for further info!)

But for anyone that wants to see more on this ballet, one of Ballet Austin's dancers blogs at thewinger.com and just posted lots of photos from this past weekend's production.

~Pointe1432

#5 dancer100

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 06:40 PM

Hello everyone~

I saw Ballet Austin's Hamlet on the Friday night show and was surprised at how wonderful it was. As I mentioned in another topic about Ballet Austin, I usually do not like Mr. Mill's choreography and music choices. Surprising myself, I was in awe the whole performance. I thought the music by Phillip Glass was a perfect choice for the tragic ballet and Mr. Mills did a great job at turning this difficult Shakespeare play into dance. The whole performance seemed very well put together with the wonderful dynamic dancers, appropriate costumes and dramatic fencing. I thought that the new Ballet Austin member, Johnstuart, proved himself to be a fantastic dancer (he is only 18!) and actor.

My favorite scene was Ophelia's funeral. The simple black costumes against the pure white background was striking. I also loved the part when Ophelia "danced" and kicked around in the real water onstage!!

Overall, I was very pleased at this performance. Too bad Mills doesn't make more ballets like this anymore. When I went to the "Studio Spotlight" for Hamlet, they said it has been well recieved around the US and multiple companies have performed it. Good job Ballet Austin!

#6 jonellew

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 08:58 PM

Yay, another Austin voice! I agree with you, dancer100, that Hamlet is one of Mills' best works to date (I haven't seen everything, but I'm guessing the best). I know it has been performed by several other Western/Midwestern, medium-sized companies (Dayton, Milwaukee, and I forget where else), and I think that testifies to the appropriateness of its scope and size.
Not sure if there are any more Texans on BT, but maybe others have seen the ballet on other companies. Anyone?

#7 Pointe1432

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 09:29 AM

I think another highlight is Stephen Mills joining in the fun by playing the role of the ghost, something he hasn't done since the premier in 2000.

One of the concepts that really struck me when I first saw this in 2004 was Mr. Mills creation of "shadow" or "ghost" Hamlets. I thought it was a brilliant way to show a character's inner struggle and a way to visually represent Hamlet's soliloquys. And then to continue to use them in the scene with Ophelia as an intrument to show the duality of his character at that point. No wonder she was so traumatized!

Concepts like that, coupled with how beatifully striking the scenes are really just nail the target on the head for me and are why it is my favorite ballet. :wink:

-Pointe1432

#8 jonellew

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 01:36 PM

One of the concepts that really struck me when I first saw this in 2004 was Mr. Mills creation of "shadow" or "ghost" Hamlets. I thought it was a brilliant way to show a character's inner struggle and a way to visually represent Hamlet's soliloquys. And then to continue to use them in the scene with Ophelia as an intrument to show the duality of his character at that point. No wonder she was so traumatized!
-Pointe1432


I agree. Did you happen to see Dustin Wills' play Ophelia here in Austin at the Blue Theater last year? Another great treatment, I think, that uses this same kind of device to tell in the first person Ophelia's story using five characters: Ophelia in love, (I am missing two here), Ophelia undone, and Ophelia in water. When I saw it, I remember saying it was the best thing I had seen onstage in a long time.

#9 Cyrano

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 01:57 PM

My photos from the production are here:

http://www.austincan.../v/BA/0809/ham/

#10 directography

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 03:21 PM

I know I am coming into this discussion late but I thought I would share my thoughts on the production of "Hamlet" by Stephen Mills. I have seen a lot of ballet in my life time and done a lot of ballets in my life time, and this version he has created is a masterpiece in every way. I was fortunate to know the original cast of the ballet and have seen it performed with them... Chris Hannon and Gina Patterson were the ultimate Hamlet and Ophelia with their performances carrying that of seasoned professionals beyond their years. Bravo!! Stephen has a way of using the classical format of classical ballet to takes to a new and modern edge which pushes the audience member into thinking that they are watching a ballet by Tim Burtton, dark and physiologically driven. The performances since that time only pale in-comparison to me but the beautiful masterful way Stephen Mills choreographed this piece will live a long life.

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 03:29 PM

I have to recall here that Lord Olivier once said that he had a friend who said, "I always felt that the only things that spoilt Hamlet were the words."


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