August 21, 2011

New Role

Ethan Stiefel
surprised the ballet world last year when it was announced that he’d been appointed artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. This month, the American Ballet Theatre principal and former dean of dance at University of North Carolina School of the Arts begins his position at the head of the 32-member company.

While Stiefel’s programming decisions won’t take effect until the 2012–13 season, he plans to maintain the varied classical and contemporary ballet repertoire. He will continue to nurture Kiwi choreographers and work with international dancemakers, plus bring in work by Americans—and even develop his own choreography. He notes that the dancers are “not only solid across the board whether it be in classical dance or contemporary, but they’re hungry. They’re taking the change in leadership as an opportunity to elevate their game.” Stiefel, whose mantra is leading by example and who invests wholeheartedly in his work, anticipates being in New Zealand for most of the year, hopefully returning to New York for ABT’s 2012 Met season.

He has the full support of his fiancée, ABT’s majestic principal Gillian Murphy, who may guest with RNZB while continuing to perform with ABT. “We certainly never thought that this was the way that things would go, but she’s being very generous to take the plunge with me,” he says. “We’re looking forward to carving out our own little life in a beautiful place.”

He continues, “I’m going into it with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, but also trying to be grounded and realistic, because there’s a whole lot of unknown. Which is a little bit daunting,” he says, laughing, “but you’ve got to take some risk every now and then.” —Kina Poon


Ethan Stiefel teaching class at UNCSA. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor for



In Memoriam

Annelise Mertz (1918 –2011)

Since 1957, when Annelise Mertz arrived to teach dance at Washington University, she fought to give modern dance its rightful place in St. Louis. She taught in the gym next to the swimming pool since the university lacked studios. Her persistence led to the creation of the Performing Arts Department, whose dance program she directed for 31 years. In addition, she founded Dance St. Louis, a major presenter, in 1966. She housed and fed the earliest visiting companies, including those of Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis.

Mertz’s fierce determination had its roots in pre–World War II Berlin, where she studied Laban theory, as well as ballet. She performed at Berlin State Opera, and the Dusseldorf and Darmstadt Operas (before she dismissed ballet as antiquated), as well as her own solo programs. Mertz did graduate studies with Kurt Jooss in Essen, and became a member of his company, performing The Green Table a reported 109 times.

Mertz tolerated no nonsense, and never took no for an answer. “You must first learn to move before you can dance,” she said. St. Louis will miss that powerful voice. —Alice Bloch


New York City Ballet soloists Rebecca Krohn and Adam Hendrickson (see “Why I Dance,” Aug. 2010) were married on June 24.


Krohn and Hendrickson. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.