Colorado Ballet

Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project

Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project

Choreographer: Stephen Mills
Composer: Steve Reich (Tehillim)
Evelyn Glennie (Rhythm Song)
Michael Gordon (Weather)
Arvo Pärt (Tabula Rasa)
Philip Glass (Tirol Concerto)
Years performed: 2013

Dana Benton and Jesse Marks - by Colorado Ballet Staff
Dana Benton and Jesse Marks - by Colorado Ballet Staff

Total run time: 85 minutes (no intermission)

Concept/Choreography: Stephen Mills
Set/Costume Design: Christopher McCollum
Lighting Design: Tony Tucci
Music: Steve Reich (Tehillim), Evelyn Glennie (Rhythm Song), Michael Gordon (Weather), Arvo Pärt (Tabula Rasa), Philip Glass (Tirol Concerto)
Media Design: Exopolis

Choreographer’s Note
Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project is a story of survival.  Situated during the catastrophic events of the Holocaust, this work strives to illustrate the courage, resilience, and sometimes pure luck required to endure and rebuild life after unimaginable and devastating loss.  Past is present and not to be forgotten. –Stephen Mills

By Stephen Mills
As an artist whose practice is very much involved in the humanity within dance, approaching a story based in an important historical event was new to me.  I am interested in how people relate to one another and fell that dance has the ability to express, in a metaphoric way, emotion that words cannot capture.  Throughout my study of the Holocaust, I became fixated on memory and the ways in which people cope with disaster and loss.  In my mind, I wonder what conversations survivors have with themselves over the nearly 70 years since the end of World War II.  This concept is introduced with the image of a survivor who comforts her younger self and relives her story.

Through the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, the circle of life begins.  Civilizations develop; families and cultures evolve to include a pattern of daily life and valued traditions, like a wedding.  However, change is imminent; the ground is shifting, and what is familiar slowly disappears.  Certain populations are deemed to be inferior, and then targeted and isolated.  They are degraded to the point of being perceived as non-human, and life or death is determined by powers outside of their control.  People are treated as property and transported to camps.  Overwhelming numbers do not survive the trip.  Even within a prison, the circular nature of life continues.  Acts of brutality, courage, defiance, and anger occur in captivity.  Eventually, though, we all face death, and do so alone.  However, the circle continues; lives and families are rebuilt.  This is not every survivor’s story, but is the one I humbly seek to tell.

The woman
The work unfolds as part of an ongoing conversation held between the 19 year-old girl whose life was forever changed…and the woman she is today.

Section I:
Tree of Life/Family

This section opens symbolically with original man and woman, Adam and Eve, and the tree of life; suggesting the roots of humanity and the branches of each succeeding generation.  Civilization, families and cultures evolve to include a pattern of daily life and its valued traditions…one such example being the joy of a wedding.

As this section ends, it is clear that the woman is beginning to feel the “ground shift beneath her feet.”  Change is coming.

Section II:
Segregation and Marginalization

This section explores the process through which those deemed “different” become exploited.  What is familiar slowly starts to shift.  People retreat from one another, beginning to socially isolate; to hide in hopes of survival.

Section III:
Humanity as property/Control through terror

No longer seen as individuals, life or death is determined by powers outside of their control.  People are treated as property and transported en mass via rail cars to camps.  Many never survive the trip.

Section IV:
Coping inside the box

Being kept in confinement with more than 20,000 people, one could felt a sense of being alone.  What questions were prisoners/victims asking themselves about survival and death each day?  How did their relationships develop in the camps.

There were acts of kindness and rescue, but also acts of survival, frustration and anger.  We are reminded that the circle of life is complex and that we enter and leave alone.

Section V:

This final section represents the woman’s desire for the lessons from this experience to focus on the power of the human spirit to cling to hope and ultimately to survive.  People left this atrocity and went on to create family, relationships and productive lives.  The woman was liberated from Auschwitz as one of her family’s sole survivors.


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