Ethan Stiefel to direct the Royal New Zealand Ballet

In an astonishing coup, the Royal New Zealand Ballet has just announced that Ethan Stiefel, currently principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and dean of the School of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, will be its next artistic director, taking up the position in the second half of 2011.  Stiefel will be joined by Gillian Murphy, his partner in life and also a principal with ABT.

Stiefel’s comments on his appointment are: ‘I am enormously appreciative and enthusiastic about having been appointed the next Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Becoming RNZB’s Artistic Director provides me with an exceptional opportunity to professionally and personally evolve and to contribute to the art form I truly love. It is very encouraging to see how much the company has already achieved, the potential it possesses and how the nation embraces its national ballet company. I look forward to building on the company’s fine reputation, while seeking to be a fresh, innovative and inspiring new leader for the RNZB in any way I can. Both myself and my partner in life; American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer, Gillian Murphy, are ready for this new chapter in our lives and wholeheartedly make a commitment to the new adventures and prospects it holds. Finally, I also look forward to connecting with my relatives living in New Zealand today and, being a sports enthusiast with Kiwi blood, I’m also looking forward to supporting the All Blacks!’

I can see that ‘crossing the ditch’ will become more common for Australian dance folk. One of my fondest memories of living in New York between 2006 and 2008 was seeing an ABT production of La Bayadère in which Stiefel danced Solor, Murphy Gamzatti and Diana Vishneva Nikiya.

Michelle Potter, 30 October 2010