Blaine Hoven and Aran Bell in Garden Blue. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of American Ballet Theatre.

Ballet Austin: Celebrating Sarah

Dec 2, 2022 | From Our Partners

This February, Ballet Austin premieres a collection of three ballets entitled Sarah’s Songs. Curated by Stephen Mills, Ballet Austin’s Sarah and Ernest Butler Family Fund Artistic Director, these works honor Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler and their years of leadership and philanthropic support of Ballet Austin, as well as many other arts organizations in Austin.

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Mr. Mills selected works highlighting different elements of Sarah Butler’s effervescent personality. “Sarah’s Songs is a collection of works that I put together to celebrate the life and the joy that I feel when I am around Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler,” Mills warmly explained. Ballet Austin is delighted to celebrate this exceptional couple and looks forward to sharing Sarah’s Songs with the Austin community February 10-12 at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

The first ballet in this collection, Serenade, is one of George Balanchine’s most beloved works. This was his first work created in America as a studio ballet using students of the School of American Ballet. Featuring a predominantly female cast, this ballet represents the neo-classical side of Sarah Butler.

Choreographer Jessica Lang’s Garden Blue speaks to the Butler’s love of contemporary art. The ballet is vibrant and colorful, contrasting with Serenade’s soft blue palette. This work utilizes large moveable pieces, reminiscent of sculptures. With sets and costumes designed by artist Sarah Crowner, Garden Blue is full of movement and interaction between the dancers.

Ballet Austin in George Balanchine’s Serenade by Amitava Sarkar.

The final work on the program is a world premiere by Stephen Mills. I Am the Monument highlights the Butlers’ unchanging dedication to new ideas. Featuring Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 3, a favorite composer of Mills, this work takes the pulsating, dramatic rhythms of the music and transfers them on to the bodies of the dancers.

The generosity provided by the Butlers is evident all around Ballet Austin. The Butler Fellowship Program, endowed by Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler through the Ballet Austin Foundation, supports young aspiring professional dancers by providing a year-long tuition-free opportunity for them to continue to grow and develop their talents. This support makes the pursuit of a dance career possible for many young artists across the U.S. The Butler New Choreography Endowment, a $3 million gift from the Butlers to fund new dance works, ensures the continuation of the creation of new works by Stephen Mills and his successors. The Butlers’ gift of $3.5 million dollars was the cornerstone of Ballet Austin’s $10 million capital campaign to build the Butler Dance Education Center at 501 W. 3rd Street. The 38,000-square foot facility, in the heart of downtown Austin, is home to the ballet company and its artistic, administrative, and production staff, as well as the Ballet Austin Academy and the Butler Center for Dance and Fitness. Over the last 17 years, the Butlers have made more than a dozen significant financial gifts to Ballet Austin totaling more than $9.5 million.

Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler have been active supporters of Ballet Austin for many years. Mr. Mills has many fond memories of this involvement over the years that he has worked with them, and is always eager to share examples of this generosity with others. As world travelers and lovers of both classical and contemporary art, the Butlers’ support is deeply appreciated at Ballet Austin. We hope you will all join us in February as we honor Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler with Sarah’s Songs.

This article was first published in the Maria And The Mouse Deer playbill. It is published here courtesy of Ballet Austin. Click here to learn more or read the entire playbill. 

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