Ballet Pacifica Names ABT Star Ethan Stiefel as Artistic Director

Classic Arts News   Ballet Pacifica Names ABT Star Ethan Stiefel as Artistic Director
American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Ethan Stiefel has been named "artistic director designate" at Ballet Pacifica in Orange County, California.

According to the Orange County Register, the company expects to finalize his contract: in all other aspects agreed to: at the end of January. If all goes as planned, Stiefel will take up the post next September.

It is hoped that Stiefel, one of the most famous male dancers in the world, will remake Ballet Pacifica, a small professional company with a regional reputation and a limited schedule, into a respected international troupe.

Stiefel's managerial experience has been limited to his own touring group, Stiefel & Stars, and a training program on Martha's Vineyard. Nonetheless, the company's administration is thrilled by the move. Jerry Mandel, president of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, said it was "an incredible opportunity."

Stiefel intimated he had some new dancers in mind for the company, and told the Register that if he could get those dancers, "I don't want to say this with any arrogance, but we should be a force to be reckoned with."

He has already named ABT principal Amanda McKerrow and former ABT soloist John Gardner to oversee the company while he is not in town. Each of the company's dancers, whose contracts expire next May, will be reconsidered for their positions; Stiefel, who plans to increase the number of dancers in the company from nine to about 20, also would like to hold auditions in different parts of the country.

In Stiefel's vision, the company will tour throughout Southern California, putting on one full-length ballet and three mixed-repertory programs each season, including works by Balanchine, Robbins, and less-known European choreographers.

In addition, the company's budget will increase from $1.7 million to $6.5 million. Thomas Gulick, Ballet Pacifica's new executive director, is hoping that Stiefel's star power will encourage donors to give more money.

Of this new plan for the company, Mandel said, "There is no really major ballet company in all of Southern California, and if they set their sights on playing from Santa Barbara to San Diego, they could almost carve out a niche for themselves of being a West Coast American Ballet Theatre."

Stiefel plans to continue performing with ABT, but will limit other engagements in order to devote time to Ballet Pacifica, including performing with the company once or twice a year. However, Stiefel said, that won't be the important part of his job. "I'll be the artistic director. This isn't the Ethan Stiefel show."

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