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By Kate Lydon
On choreographing for the upcoming TV show “Flesh and Bone” and taking the Royal New Zealand Ballet on a U.S. tour
Photo by Evan Li, Courtesy RNZB
Ethan Stiefel has always been a multitasker. He not only danced with American Ballet Theatre but also played Cooper Nielson in Center Stage, led the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ dance department and now directs the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Stiefel has two projects rolling at the moment: This month his company tours the U.S. while he also starts work on the Starz ballet drama “Flesh and Bone.” Kate Lydon talked to Stiefel about balancing his roles.
What are you most excited to present to U.S. audiences? I sense a lot of people will enjoy Giselle (choreographed by myself and Johan Kobborg). There is a great deal of new choreography: We gave Hilarion more dancing and created an older Albrecht character—the production is a flashback playing over and over in his head, which leads to a powerful ending. And the mixed-rep program we are bringing reflects the strengths of RNZB, from classical to modern.
It will be the company’s first time in the U.S. since 2005. Where do you usually tour? The company splits in two every other year and tours to a total of about 50 different venues across New Zealand. The purpose is to take ballet to the people, especially in the more remote places of the country. I don’t know of any other company that consistently tours to that many different places in their homeland.
“Flesh and Bone” sounds like an exciting project. What will it entail? I have a pretty cool and challenging opportunity: creating work in a different environment and covering a wide range of vocabulary. The series requires choreographing classroom exercises and stage performances. I am also advising throughout casting to determine if those being considered for roles have the experience to portray a professional dancer.
How will the job fit into your schedule? How much time I actually spend in New York is to be determined. The producers are very sensitive to my responsibilities with RNZB, and the company’s board is very supportive. It’s really not that different from what ADs do while choreographing on other companies—it just so happens that it is for TV instead of the stage, and my location presents a challenging commute.
RNZB ON TOUR:
Featuring ABT’s Gillian Murphy
Jan. 31–Feb. 2: The Music Center, L.A.
Feb. 5: Granada Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA
Works by Benjamin Millepied, Javier de Frutos, Ethan Stiefel and Andrew Simmons
Feb. 8: Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis Feb. 12–16: The Joyce Theater, NYC