Open main menu

Ethan Stiefel (born 13 February 1973 in Tyrone, Pennsylvania) is an American dancer, choreographer, and director. He was a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) from 1997 till July 2012.[1] He was the artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet from 2011 to 2014.[2] His wife is Gillian Murphy, also a principal dancer with ABT.[3]

Ethan Stiefel
Born (1973-02-13) February 13, 1973 (age 46)
Occupationballet dancer
Years active1989-present
Spouse(s)Gillian Murphy
Former groupsArtistic Director, Royal New Zealand Ballet (September 2011 - 2014)
Principal Dancer, American Ballet Theatre (April 1997 - July 2012)
New York City Ballet (1989-April 1997)

Early life and trainingEdit

He is the only son of a Lutheran minister who became a prison warden in New York; their last name is pronounced "Stee-fell" and is German for "boot."[4]

Stiefel began ballet training in Madison, Wisconsin at the Monona Academy of Dance at age eight. He became involved with classical dance through his older sister, who was taking a class. Before that, both he and his sister took gymnastics classes. His first ballet teacher, Jo Jean Retrum, was interested in getting Ethan to take class because boys in ballet are a rarity. He studied for two years at the Milwaukee Ballet School under Ted Kivitt and Paul Sutherland, and at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet before moving to New York City to attend the School of American Ballet on scholarship.[3]

While there, Stanley Williams enrolled him in the company's men's special class where he trained alongside Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Fernando Bujones. He studied with Baryshnikov himself at the short lived Mikhail Baryshnikov's School of Classical Ballet. [5]



He started his dancing career in 1989, when he joined the corps de ballet of New York City Ballet at age 16. In 1992, he took a leave of absence to perform with the Zürich Ballet, under directorship of Bernd R. Bienert, but returned to NYCB a year later as a soloist. By 1995, he was a principal dancer with the company. He ended his tenure with NYCB in April 1997 when he joined ABT as a principal dancer, from which he retired in 2012.[3] He danced with the short-lived Mikhail Baryshnikov School of Classical Ballet at ABT.[3] His dance repertoire includes many key romantic roles in both classical and contemporary ballet.

He won a silver medal at the Prix de Lausanne in 1989 and also received a Princess Grace Foundation-USA grant in 1991. In 1998, Stiefel was nominated for the Benois de la Danse award as one of the rising stars in ballet.[3] In 2007, Stiefel made his debut with the Australian Ballet in Nureyev's staging of Don Quixote, for its Melbourne and Sydney seasons, in the role of Basilio.[5] In 2008, Stiefel was a recipient of the Dance Magazine Award along with Pina Bausch, Sylvia Walters, and Lawrence Rhodes for his role as a leader in the dance field.[6]

Stiefel has appeared as a guest artist with many companies throughout his career including the Mariinsky Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Australian Ballet, Zurich Ballet, Munich Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, New National Ballet in Tokyo, and Teatro Colón Ballet in Buenos Aires. He gave his final performance as an ABT principal dancer on July 7, 2012, at the Metropolitan Opera House, as Ali the slave in Le Corsaire.[7][8] He is widely considered right now to be currently "the greatest male ballet dancer in the world or "the most advanced male ballet dancer in the world".[citation needed]

Directing and TeachingEdit

In 2004, he created a four-week workshop, Stiefel & Students, for aspiring dancers where dance students train and perform with professional ballet dancers. It is held annually on Martha's Vineyard in the month of August. The program accepts students aged 12 to 18. Its rollcall of star guest teachers include Stiefel, Johan Kobborg, Amanda McKerrow, Elizabeth Parkinson, Scott Wise, Marcelo Gomes, John Gardner, Gary Chryst, Ann Reinking, and Alina Cojocaru.[5][9] The program has been on hiatus since 2008.[10]

In late 2005, Ballet Pacifica, based in Irvine, California, named him as its artistic director with the aim to relaunch itself as a higher-profile ballet company. However, after the company failed to raise the funds necessary to support their new vision, its executive director resigned followed by Stiefel himself in April 2006.[11][12]

He was formerly the dean of the School of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem where he also choreographed a new production of The Nutcracker.

In November 2010 Stiefel was announced as the next director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. He took up that position in September 2011.[13] Stiefel expanded the international profile of the company, programmed new works, created a one-act ballet Bierhalle, and choreographed a production of Giselle. In March 2014, Stiefel announced that he would not extend his contract with the Royal New Zealand Ballet and would return to the United States.

Television and Movie AppearancesEdit

In 2000, he starred in the film Center Stage, directed by Nicholas Hytner with original choreography by Susan Stroman and featuring Amanda Schull.[14] He also starred in the sequels Center Stage: Turn It Up and Center Stage: On Pointe. Center Stage features a subplot in which Stiefel's character garners the financial support of a flirtatious female philanthropist (played by Elizabeth Hubbard).[14] An article in The New York Times entitled "How Much Is That Dancer in the Program?" revealed that Stiefel has a similar real-life sponsorship relationship with wealthy philanthropist Anka Palitz.[15]

In 2007 he appeared in the movie, Born to Be Wild - The Leading Men of American Ballet Theatre with Angel Corella, Jose Manuel Carreno and Vladimir Malakhov directed by Judy Kinberg and produced by Jodee Nimerichter.

In 2007, Stiefel appeared in an episode of Queer Eye to meet a "straight guy" who considers Stiefel his "idol." In 2010 he appeared as himself in season 4, episode 8 of Gossip Girl with Murphy.

Personal lifeEdit

He is an avid motorcyclist. He grew up riding dirt bikes, currently owns a Harley-Davidson Wide Glide and once drove 3,500 miles across the north-eastern US with his (then) girlfriend Gillian Murphy riding pillion.[5] He is also a Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fan.

Stiefel proposed to Murphy, a principal dancer with the American Ballet Company, in May 2011, after they performed in ABT's spring gala.[16] They were married on September 19 2015.[17] On December 14, 2018, Murphy announced that she was pregnant with her first child and would take maternity leave for the 2018-2019 season.[18][19] In June 2019, Murphy announced the birth of their son.[20]


  • "American ballet, for me, is Stanley Williams."
  • "Baryshnikov was and is my idol. He's the man. He was someone I've looked up to all throughout my life."
  • "I enjoy what I do, so why not just go about it in a good way, a positive way? I don't concern myself with becoming a star. I just go out there and try to give an honest performance and if, when I get offstage, I'm a complete schmuck, then that's me."[21]
  • "When I'm done with ballet, I'd just like to work on motorcycles. I have two."
  • "I actually quit ballet when I was 14. I had just gotten a scholarship to the School of American Ballet, but it was so far away and there was no other school I liked nearby."
  • "But then my father was transferred to New York, and ... I knew this was it. I saw the bright lights, big city, the professional companies and great dancers. I was in a great school and knew that this was serious business and I had to do it."
  • "Dancing exacts a toll. I don't dance for applause. But there have definitely been moments, when I've been injured, when I say to myself, 'To come back to this, is it really worth it. It's just tough. It takes so much out of you physically and there's a lot of stress involved. Emotionally, it can drain you. I travel around a lot and it's great, it's exciting, but I don't see any of it. I do my shows and I'm off to the next place."
  • "I always worry about my line. At the same time, I’m lucky: I have the feet that I’ve been given. Hopefully they’ll keep pointing for two more shows."
  • "Julie and I first started working together in the late '90s at ABT. I danced some of my first roles and debuts with her. I think my favorite ballet with Julie was 'Romeo and Juliet'. You never forget your first Juliet."


  1. ^ "Ethan Stiefel Retires from the A.B.T.:Ethan Stiefel: No Longer "Center Stage"". The New Yorker. July 3, 2012.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-13. Retrieved 2014-10-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e "ABT: Dancers Ethan Stiefel". American Ballet Theatre. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  4. ^ Freydkin, Donna (2000-05-11). "In ballet, on big screen, Ethan Stiefel takes 'Center Stage'". - Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  5. ^ a b c d Verghis, Sharon (2007-01-29). "Easy rider filling Nureyev's shoes". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-16. Retrieved 2012-02-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^
  9. ^ Temin, Christine (2003-10-19). "Another Midwestern male dancer on motorcycle". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  10. ^ "Stiefel & Students". Vineyard Arts Project. Archived from the original on March 7, 2009. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  11. ^ Mattison, Ben (2006-03-27). "Ethan Stiefel's Ballet Pacifica Cancels 2006-07 Season". PlaybillArts: News:. Retrieved 2008-10-05.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  12. ^ Segal, Lewis (2007-03-28). "Sad last act for Ballet Pacifica". Los Angeles Times (Print edition E-2 ed.). Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  13. ^ Royal New Zealand Ballet website Archived 2010-11-11 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ a b Ethan Stiefel on IMDb
  15. ^ Kinetz, Erika (2004-08-15). "How Much Is That Dancer In the Program?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  16. ^ Sucas, Rosalyn (May 31, 2011). "At Ballet Theater, Popping the Question After the Plié". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Patricia, Harty; Kara, Rota. "Gillian Murphy: On Her Toes". Irish America (June / July 2016). Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  18. ^ Wingenroth, Lauren (December 14, 2018). "8 Reasons Why Gillian Murphy Will Be the Coolest Mom". Dance Magazine.
  19. ^ "Gillian Murphy to Take Maternity Leave". American Ballet Theatre. December 14, 2018.
  20. ^ "Gillian Murphy on Instagram: "Overwhelmed with infinite ♥️ for this little guy!!🤱 Huge thank you to each and every one of you for your messages & warm welcome of Ax Nathaniel Stiefel (Ax means "Father of Peace") 💙 Big shoutout to Dr. Sona Degann for making my blissful pregnancy and intense labor/#caesarean as seamless as possible 😅💕 #exhausted #euphoric #grateful 📷: @tessazip ✨". Retrieved June 10, 2019 – via Instagram.
  21. ^ Fredykin, Donna (17 May 2000). "In ballet, on big screen, Ethan Stiefel takes 'Center Stage'". Retrieved 26 March 2019.

External linksEdit