Ethan Stiefel

With his laser-sharp technique and powerful stage presence—as immortalized by his star turn as Cooper Nielson in Center Stage and Center Stage: Turn It Up—American Ballet Theatre principal Ethan Stiefel is a force to be reckoned with. Stiefel began his dance training at age 8 in Madison, WI, and went on to study at the Milwaukee Ballet School and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet before attending the American Ballet Theatre’s School of Classical Ballet and The School of American Ballet on scholarship. After dancing professionally with New York City Ballet and the Zurich Ballet, Stiefel joined ABT as a principal in 1997. He recently finished a four-year run as dean of the School of Dance for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and beginning this month, he’ll add yet another title to his impressive resumé: artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. —Stephanie Falkowski

Dear Ethan,

Ardently believe in your artistic ideals and creative vision, but understand that you will meet challenges in executing that vision. Recognize that you will often need to make adjustments or accept a different end result.

You may find yourself full of self-doubt. Sometimes, others will create the doubts you wrestle with. Embrace the guidance of those you trust and respect. They will get you through periods of uncertainty.

Know that the purity and integrity of an original idea can be preserved. Remember: That idea, at the moment it was born, was yours alone. It lives forever as you originally conceived it.


Ethan Stiefel

Latest Posts

Meet the dancers of MDC3: Madi Smith, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Mather (left to right). Photo by Joe Toreno. Hair by Marina Migliaccio and makeup by Lisa Chamberlain, both for the Rex Agency.

Meet MDC3: The "World of Dance" Winners Who Defied the Odds

In March 2020, the same day the "World of Dance" cast got word that production would be shutting down due to a global pandemic, MDC3 artists Madison (Madi) Smith, Diego Pasillas and Emma Mather stood shoulder to shoulder onstage, bracing to hear the final results of the competition. The champion title and $1 million prize money were within reach, decided entirely by the three celebrity judges sitting in front of them. As their competitor's scores dropped from the lips of Derek Hough, Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo at roughly 2 percentage points below their own, viewers watched realization dawn. MDC3's mouths dropped into gigantic Oh's before their hands slapped over their faces in disbelief. Sparklers shot up while confetti rained down, and the announcer shouted, "MDC3, you are the winner of 'World of Dance'!"

It was an impressive accomplishment for any group of dancers, let alone three teenagers who'd faced rejection from the show three times over. Despite their youth (Madi is 18, Diego is 17 and Emma is 16), this moment was hard earned through years of dedicated patience.

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Mason Evans assisting at New York City Dance Alliance in Orlando, FL (Evolve Photo & Video, courtesy Mason Evans)

5 Dancers Share What It's Really Like to Return to Competitions Right Now

For the first time since the coronavirus hit the U.S., competitions and conventions are meeting in-person once again (brimming with safety precautions, of course), and dancers couldn't be more thrilled.

We asked five standout comp kids about their recent experiences attending competitions around the country—and how they're taking advantage of these long-lost opportunities.

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Because the future of Black dance is happening right now (Braylon Browner photographed by Rhiannon Lee, courtesy Braylon Browner)

Celebrating Black Futures Month: 4 Up-and-Coming Black Dancers Making History Right Now

Throughout the month of February, many Americans celebrate Black History Month, a period of the year dedicated to honoring the contributions of Black figures to American culture and society.

The lesser-known Black Futures Month, which is also celebrated in February—and often in conjunction with BHM—looks to art and artists to envision an equitable future for Black Americans. At Dance Spirit, we're celebrating #BlackFuturesMonth by spotlighting four young Black dancers whose dance journeys are proving that the future of Black dance is bright.

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