Ethan Stiefel and Gillian Murphy Bring Their Expertise to American Repertory Ballet
By Anne Levin
Photography by Andrew Wilkinson
The first time Ethan Stiefel was approached about becoming artistic director of American Repertory Ballet (ARB), he wasn’t sure it was the right move for him. The Princeton and New Brunswick-based company had already performed a piece that the former star dancer had choreographed, and he felt a rapport with its dancers. But becoming their artistic leader was another matter.
“I was happy where I was,” said Stiefel, who at the time was coaching and teaching at American Ballet Theatre (ABT), the company from which he had retired a few years before. Stiefel’s wife Gillian Murphy was, and still is, a principal dancer with ABT, and one of its most enduring stars. Most importantly, they had a baby on the way. It seemed wise to stay put.
By the time ARB executive director Julie Diana Hench posed the question again, it was four months into COVID-19. The couple had sold their New York apartment, pre-pandemic, and were riding it out in a cabin in northeastern Pennsylvania. They weren’t sure when, and if, life would ever get back to normal and they’d be able to pick up where they left off.