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Ethan Stiefel to leave Royal New Zealand Ballet

Posted on March 4, 2014

ethanstiefel billcooper

ethanstiefel-billcooperAfter three years as director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB), Ethan Stiefel has decided not to renew his contract with the company. He will return to the US at the start of September. The company hopes to continue its association with ballerina Gillian Murphy, Stiefel’s fiancée, who became its principal guest artist in 2012.

Stiefel said: “I have enjoyed growing alongside the RNZB, and I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to live and work in New Zealand. Despite how rewarding the experience has been, it has proved difficult on a personal level to be so far away from family and friends. Furthermore, the distance has also made it challenging to explore other professional projects that have been presented to me, without taking too much time away from the company. For these reasons, I will be leaving the RNZB on September 1. I cannot thank everyone in the organisation enough for their support, and I look forward to seeing the company continue to evolve and achieve great things.”

The company is seeking a new artistic director, hoping to confirm an appointment by September 1, 2014. “We believe that the increased international profile Ethan Stiefel has brought to the RNZB can only be positive thing as we look to appoint his successor,” said Candis Craven, chair of RNZB.

Under Stiefel’s direction, RNZB has given record-breaking seasons of short works and full-length ballets. His new production of Giselle, created in collaboration with Johan Kobborg and recorded in a film by Toa Fraser, was the centrepiece of international tours to China and the US. Dancer numbers have increased.

Stiefel’s last programme for the company will be Allegro: Five Short Ballets, which includes a world premiere by New Zealand choreographer Daniel Belton. Gillian Murphy will guest in this programme. Candis Craven said: “Gillian has given New Zealand dance lovers some unforgettable performances, and with her great breadth of experience and knowledge continues to be a wonderful role model and mentor for RNZB dancers.”


Picture: Ethan Stiefel teaching class. Photograph: Bill Cooper



Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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