The 2019-2020 Season marks the 25th year since Robert Mills first became associated with Oklahoma City Ballet. Originally joining the company as a dancer during the 1994-1995 Season, Mr. Mills has gone on to serve the organization in multiple roles including teacher, choreographer, designer, two seasons as Interim Executive Director, and of course, the company’s Artistic Director for the past 11 years. In recognition of his years of community service to the art of ballet in Central Oklahoma, Robert was honored to receive the Governor’s Arts Award in 2018.
When Mr. Mills began as Artistic Director in 2008, Oklahoma City Ballet entered a new era of renewal. The institution’s annual budget has grown by more than 400%, the company’s school draws over 800 students per year, and the city has enjoyed seeing unprecedented advances in the magnitude and quality of the company’s work on stage. With a goal of creating an enviable repertoire for Oklahoma City Ballet, Robert has mounted company premieres of full-length classics like Swan Lake and La Sylphide in addition to programing ballets from important choreographers like Balanchine, Kylián, Joffrey, Arpino, Tharp, Duato, and Tudor. Robert has also kept a focus on commissioning new work from some of the industry’s top choreographers including Ma Cong, Jessica Lang, Matthew Neenan, Helen Pickett, Amy Seiwert, and Cayetano Soto.
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 plus shorter non-narrative works like Our Private Rooms among others. In 2017, Robert was honored to be selected to take part in the National Choreographers Initiative in Southern California, which resulted in the creation of his ballet, “The Means to Fly.” The Oklahoman wrote of Robert’s tenure with OKC Ballet, “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. Of his time in Colorado, The Denver Post wrote, “Mills is now an artistic director responsible for one of Colorado’s biggest dance success stories.” A sought-after teacher of classical ballet, he teaches on faculty at The Oklahoma City Ballet Yvonne Chouteau School and has taught at numerous training grounds across the world.