David Mead

Ethan Stiefel. Photo: RNZB

Ethan Stiefel.
Photo: RNZB

After three years as Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, during which the company has gained a much heighted profile and improved both technically and in terms of repertoire, Ethan Stiefel has decided not to extend his contract and to return to the USA to pursue new opportunities.

While Stiefel describes his experience in New Zealand as rewarding, family issues and the fact New Zealand is geographically isolated have proved problematic. In a statement, he said, “Since 2011, 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.”

Under Stiefel’s leadership, the RNZB has enjoyed record-breaking seasons of short works and has increased its overseas touring.  His new production of “Giselle”, created in collaboration with Johan Kobborg and subsequently immortalised in Toa Fraser’s feature film (2013), has been widely acclaimed and formed the centrepiece of two hugely successful international tours, to China (2013) and the USA (2014).

Behind the scenes, Stiefel has kept the company on track towards its aim of having 40 dancers by 2017 (it was 32 at the start of his tenure and is now 36). Standards have improved too.

Thanking Stiefel for his work with the Wellington-based company, RNZB Chair Candis Craven said, “It was his vision and energy that most impressed us when we interviewed him for the role in 2011 and he has delivered that in spades, and so much more.”

Future programming is in place through to the end of 2015, which will see two world premieres, with planning already underway for 2016.

Gillian Murphy, Ethan Stiefel’s fiancée, who became the RNZB’s Principal Guest Artist in 2012, will next dance with the company in the mixed bill “Allegro: Five Short Ballets”, and the company hopes to continue its association with her in the future.

Stiefel will leave the company on September 1st. An international search for a new Artistic Director is already underway and the Company hopes to confirm an appointment by that date.