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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

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 ofSwan Lakein 2013.  His acclaimed new production ofGiselle,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 beAllegro: Five Short Ballets, a programme of classic and contemporary works, including a world premiere from New Zealand choreographer Daniel Belton.Allegroopens 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 billAllegro: 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 forCoppélia,the much-loved story ballet which opens in Wellington on 17 April ahead of an eight centre New Zealand tour.

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