After an extensive search, American Repertory Ballet announced yesterday that Ethan Stiefel will become the company's new artistic director, starting July 2021. The position has been open since former director Douglas Martin's departure in 2019; executive director Julie Diana Hench has been assuming artistic duties in the interim. Stiefel, a former American Ballet Theatre star with directing, teaching and choreographing experience, brings major name recognition and international credentials to the New Brunswick, New Jersey–based ARB.
Stiefel in Swan Lake at American Ballet Theatre
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ARB
This isn't the first time Steifel has led a company—from 2011 to 2014 he served as artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Prior to that, he was dean of University of North Carolina School of the Arts' dance department. At ARB, he inherits 10 full company members plus 8 apprentices and second company dancers, as well as the affiliated Princeton Ballet School.
"I am very fortunate to again have the opportunity to become an artistic director," Stiefel said in a statement. "I believe most arts organizations have taken stock during these times and are exploring ways to pioneer, diversify and reinvigorate how they approach their internal culture, while seeking to offer current and relevant inspiration for communities and audiences. I am looking forward to helping American Repertory Ballet emerge from these challenging times and to being a part of developing the art form within the organization and the communities we serve."
Stiefel rehearses ARB dancer Marie Tender in his ballet Overture for a 2019 performance.
Stiefel's career, which began at age 16 at New York City Ballet, has quite literally spanned the globe. After rising to principal at NYCB, he joined Zurich Ballet and then ABT, where he danced until 2012. During that time he guested at major companies all over the world and starred as Cooper Nielsen in the cult classic Center Stage.
While Stiefel is currently a principal guest instructor at ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, he has spent the last several years building up his choreographic resumé, creating works for The Washington Ballet, ABT Studio Company and the 2015 television series "Flesh and Bone." And he is a familiar face at ARB—in 2019, he coached the dancers in his ballet Overture, which the company performed at the opening of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center.
ARB in the opening pose of Stiefel's ballet Overture
There's no word yet on his plans for the company, which is scheduled to come back from hiatus in January, or whether Steifel's wife, ABT principal Gillian Murphy, will have a role there in the future. But Hench, ARB's executive director, noted in a statement that Stiefel's experience and vision are a boon to both ARB and its Princeton Ballet School: "With Ethan at the helm, it feels like the possibilities are endless."