Before Ethan Stiefel became a brilliant ballet dancer, he was a founding member and front man for The Eagles. (Shush - we're creating folklore here.) But all he wanted to do was dance. He led a Life in the Fast Lane, often chased by Twyla Tharp and Stevie Nicks, which took him to Hotel California and down to The Sunset Grill where he was easily recognizable with his hair combed back and sunglasses on. He never stopped a moment to Take It Easy, and all too soon it was the End of Innocence along with a couple of joints and vertebrae.
Stiefel's performances became fewer and fewer and sometimes he cancelled full seasons in New York. His performing career at ABT has wound down close to a stop for the past few years, and this week marks its closure with two scheduled performances of Ali in Le Corsaire along with some of our other favorite Boys of Summer. It will truly be the end of an era as ABT finally turns the role of Ali over to the competition circuit with its smileys and grins and constipated pace.
This week many will reflect on Stiefel's memorable performances not only at ABT but also at NYCB where he danced much of that company's famed repertory including Apollo, The Four Temperaments, and Symphony in Three Movements. His ABT Tharpian chapters will live on in memory as will individual pages in his career such as his Albrecht to Amanda McKerrow's final Giselle, his Oberon to Alessandra Ferri's Titania, his Ballet Review cover where he held the American flag during bows right after 9/11.
Now Artistic Director at The Royal New Zealand Ballet, Stiefel is in the midst of a moderate length contract that will probably keep him mostly out of town – but not off our radar – for the next couple of years. Meanwhile, ABT seems to be sinking under the sludge of imports and uninspired artistic direction. But as we all know in this city, all that could change in a New York Minute.