RNZB Artistic Director to leave after three outstanding years
After three outstanding years as Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Ethan Stiefel has decided not to extend his contract with the national ballet company. He will return to the USA at the beginning of September to pursue new opportunities in his homeland.
‘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. For these reasons, I will be leaving the RNZB on September first. I cannot thank everyone in the organization enough for their support, and I look forward to seeing the company continue to evolve and achieve great things.’ says Ethan Stiefel.
‘Ethan has made an incredible contribution to the RNZB. 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,’ says Candis Craven, RNZB Chair.
An international search for a new Artistic Director is underway and the RNZB Board hopes to confirm an appointment by 1 September 2014. ‘We believe that the increased international profile that Ethan Stiefel has brought to the RNZB can only be a positive thing as we look to appoint his successor,’ says Candis Craven.
Under Ethan Stiefel’s artistic leadership, building on the success of previous artistic directors, the RNZB has enjoyed record-breaking seasons of short works (NYC, 2012) and full length ballets, including almost 38,000 tickets sold for The Vodafone Season of Swan Lake in 2013. His acclaimed new production of Giselle, created in collaboration with Johan Kobborg and subsequently immortalised in Toa Fraser’s feature film (2013) was a landmark in New Zealand dance, and formed the centrepiece of two hugely successful international tours, to China (2013) and the USA (2014).
Behind the scenes, he has strengthened the RNZB’s credentials as a classical ballet company, particularly in full-length works and has focused on building the company to 36 full time members (up from 32 at start of his tenure), keeping on track to reach 40 dancers, in line with the RNZB’s strategic plan, by 2017. Not only have dancer numbers increased but so have standards. He has also worked to develop the RNZB’s musical resources, including the appointment in 2013 of Nigel Gaynor as Music Director.
Future programming is in place through to the end of 2015, with planning already underway for 2016. 2015 promises to be a hugely exciting season, including two world premieres.
Ethan Stiefel’s last season with the RNZB will be Allegro: Five Short Ballets, a programme of classic and contemporary works, including a world premiere from New Zealand choreographer Daniel Belton. Allegro opens in Auckland on 30 July and will tour to a further six centres around New Zealand.
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 the prima ballerina in the future.
‘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,” says Candis Craven.
Candis Craven adds: ‘Ethan Stiefel leaves the RNZB on a high note and the company is in good shape and good heart. We wish him every success in his future career. We are looking forward to building on the success of the last three years, both artistically and in the ever-growing number of New Zealanders supporting their national ballet company.’
Following their successful US tour, the RNZB is now in rehearsal for Coppélia, the much-loved story ballet which opens in Wellington on 17 April ahead of an eight centre New Zealand tour.
Key RNZB achievements of Ethan Stiefel’s tenure, building on the success of previous artistic directors:
• Record-breaking seasons of short works (NYC, 2012) and full length ballets, including almost 38,000 tickets sold for The Vodafone Season of Swan Lake in mid-2013.
• Commissioning of five new one-act ballets, with three by New Zealand choreographers, and his own Bier Halle, which premiered in 2013.
• Successful tours to China (2013) and the USA (2014), including sold-out performances in Santa Barbara and New York.
• Acclaimed new production of Giselle, immortalised in Toa Fraser’s feature film (2013).
• Building of company to 36 full time members (up from 32 at start of tenure) and on track to reach 40 dancers, in line with the RNZB’s strategic plan, by 2017.
• Investment in live music, including the appointment of a dedicated Music Director (Nigel Gaynor) in 2013 and partnerships with other arts organisations in 2014 and 2015 lined up to further this.
Coppélia – touring to Wellington, Palmerston North, Invercargill, Dunedin, Napier, Rotorua, Takapuna and Auckland City, 17 April – 31 May 2014.
Choreography: Martin Vedel after Marius Petipa and Arthur Saint-Léon
Music: Léo Delibes
Design: Kristian Fredrikson
Lighting: Jason Morphett
Conductor: Nigel Gaynor
Allegro: Five Short Ballets – touring to Auckland City, Hamilton, Napier, Palmerston North, Wellington, Invercargill and Dunedin, 30 July – 23 August 2014.
Choreography: George Balanchine
Les Lutins (‘The Goblins’)
Choreography: Johan Kobborg
Music: Bazzini, Wieniawski-Kreisler
Satellites (world premiere)
Choreography: Daniel Belton
Music: Jan-Bas Bollen
Animation: Jac Grenfell
Kinetic sculpture: Jim Murphy
Costumes: Donnine Harrison
Choreography: Larry Keigwin
Music: Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Giuseppe Verdi and Etta James
Choreography: Larry Keigwin
Music: Steve Reich and MIA
Lighting design for all five ballets by Nigel Percy.
The Vodafone Season of A Christmas Carol – touring to Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Napier, Auckland City and Takapuna, 30 October – 14 December 2014.
Director: Christopher Gable
Choreography: Massimo Moricone
Production design: Lez Brotherston
Music: Carl Davis
Original lighting: Paul Pyant
Conductor: Nigel Gaynor
The Royal New Zealand Ballet
The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) was founded in 1953 by Danish dancer Poul Gnatt, as a touring professional ballet company for all New Zealanders. Now based at Wellington’s St James Theatre, the Royal New Zealand Ballet is an intrinsic part of New Zealand’s national heritage, and has the largest following of all New Zealand performing arts companies. The Royal New Zealand Ballet continues to invest in live music, performing with Orchestra Wellington, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the Southern Sinfonia for both Coppélia and The Vodafone Season of A Christmas Carol and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra for The Vodafone Season of A Christmas Carol. Live music will also feature in Allegro: Five Short Ballets, with Johan Kobborg’s Les Lutins incorporating a live pianist and violinist onstage.
The RNZB enjoys a reputation for strong and unique interpretations of full-length dramatic works. To this base have been added many masterworks and major ballets of the 20th century, such as Balanchine’s works and the Stravinsky ballets. The company has an enviable track record in commissioning new works from New Zealand and international choreographers. The RNZB regularly represents New Zealand on the international stage, with recent tours to the UK, Australia, China and the USA.