A 2018 recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award for community service, Robert Mills has been Artistic Director of Oklahoma City Ballet since 2008. Since he began, Oklahoma City Ballet has enjoyed a new era of growth and renewal. The number of performances has doubled, the annual budget of the organization has increased more than 300%, the company’s affiliate school draws hundreds of dancers per year, and ballets from important choreographers like Marius Petipa, George Balanchine, August Bournonville, Jiří Kylián, Agnes de Mille, Robert Joffrey, Twyla Tharp, Nacho Duato, and Antony Tudor have entered the repertoire. A choreographer himself, Robert has contributed 16 ballets to the repertoire including story ballets like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Nutcracker, and Romeo and Juliet in addition to shorter non-narrative works like Our Private Rooms and The Means to Fly. Kathleen Redwine summed up Robert’s past decade best in a recent article in The Oklahoman: “During Mills’ 10 years of artistic leadership of OKC Ballet, dance lovers in Oklahoma have had the pleasure of seeing an all-but-failed ballet company grow into a vibrant, passionate, powerful group of performers, with equal passion for engaging our Oklahoma community in dance.”
Robert’s formative training in dance began in Chicago, concentrating on ballet with renowned pedagogue and author Anna Paskevska, with former soloists of London’s Royal Ballet Richard Ellis and Christine DuBoulay, and at the Ruth Page Foundation with Larry Long. He received further training in ballet with full scholarships from the Milwaukee Ballet School, Richmond Ballet, The Rock School in Philadelphia, and the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. Robert enjoyed a vast performing career dancing with the Milwaukee Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Eugene Ballet, and Ballet Idaho.
Prior to joining OKC Ballet as Artistic Director, he spent three years as Artistic Director of Ballet Nouveau Colorado (now called Wonderbound), bringing that company into the national spotlight. The Denver Post wrote, “Mills is now an artistic director responsible for one of Colorado’s biggest dance success stories.” A sought-after teacher, he teaches on faculty at The Oklahoma City Ballet Yvonne Chouteau School and has taught at the Kansas City Ballet School, Ballet Idaho Academy, Oklahoma University School of Dance, Burklyn Ballet, Ballet Academy of Texas, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. In 2017 Robert was honored to be selected to take part in the National Choreographers Initiative in Southern California.