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American Repertory Ballet presents Premiere3 at NBPAC

originally published: 06/03/2023

American Repertory Ballet presents Premiere3 at NBPAC

Annie Johnson, Shaye Firer, and Erikka Reensiterna-Cates, Photo by Eduardo Patino, NYC

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- Tripling down on its commitment to dynamic new work, American Repertory Ballet (ARB) returns to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center June 10-11 with Premiere3, an evocative and intriguing triple bill. The program features world premieres by acclaimed choreographers Ethan Stiefel and Amy Seiwert, and the company premiere of the Arthur Mitchell classic, Holberg Suite.

“Premiere3 offers our audiences three novel and assorted works that showcase the immense talents and heart of our dancers,” says Artistic Director Ethan Stiefel.

The program opens with the revival and company premiere of Holberg Suite, choreographed by legendary New York City Ballet Principal dancer, dance maker, trailblazer, and co-founder of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Arthur Mitchell, set to music by Edvard Grieg.

Staged by Cassandra Phifer, an original member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Holberg Suite will have refreshed costume designs by ARB Resident Designer Janessa Cornell Urwin, in consultation with Vernon L. Ross (former DTH Production Manager).

“It gives me great joy to restage Holberg Suite for ARB,” states Phifer.“ Bringing this 50 year old ballet back to life for these young dancers has been a blending and balancing of mid 20th century ideas to 21st century sensibilities. We talked about the priorities of the time and being respectful of the past while allowing the here and now to season the work.”

The program continues with a new work by Amy Seiwert, who will be joining Smuin Contemporary Ballet as Associate Artistic Director for the 2023-24 season. Seiwert most recently choreographed World, Interrupted for ARB’s Digital Spring Series in 2021, a piece created entirely via Zoom due to pandemic restrictions in place at the time. “My world premiere explores the haunting melodies of Romania’s beloved Maria Tânase, which Alexander Balanescu has reimagined for his string quartet,” explains Seiwert. “Balanescu describes himself as an ‘eternal foreigner,’ stating an intention to connect to his native culture. What appeals to me is how this reimaged score transcends a geographical boundary and expresses the more profound human experience. The music speaks more than words, inviting us to feel the universal human experiences of life, loss, love, and community.”

The program concludes with a world premiere by Ethan Stiefel set to Brahms’ “Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24”, a monumental work for solo piano, which consists of a set of twenty-five variations and a concluding fugue.

“I have absolutely loved every moment of this transcendent piece of music for several decades. I mean… that fugue! Brahms took the classic theme and variation form and infused it with new, progressive, and soaring ideas, while cleverly honoring the craft and formality found in its predecessors,” Stiefel notes. "The music so completely and naturally lends itself to dance, and offers the opportunity for diverse, adventurous, and soulful qualities in both the movement and portrayals.”

Aiming for both compelling dances and a theatrical experience, Stiefel, once again, partners with set designer Howard C. Jones (ARB’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Giselle) on the scenic elements, with costumes by ARB Resident Designer Janessa Cornell Urwin in collaboration with Australian-based Keto Dancewear.

This piece is made possible by a generous gift from The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund.

American Repertory Ballet presents Premiere3 at NBPAC

Photo by Eduardo Patino, NYC

Performances of Premiere3 take place at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center on Saturday, June 10 at 2:00pm; Saturday, June 10 at 7:00pm; and Sunday, June 11 at 2:00 pm.Tickets start at $25. Student and group sale discounts are available. For tickets, please visit

The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center is located at 11 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. The venue can be reached by car or New Jersey Transit and has ample parking in its attached parking deck.  

Arthur Mitchell was known around the world for creating and sustaining the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the internationally acclaimed ballet company he co-founded with Karel Shook in 1969. Following a brilliant career as a principal artist with the New York City Ballet, Mr. Mitchell dedicated his life to changing perceptions and advancing the art form of ballet through the first permanently established African American and racially diverse ballet company. Born in New York City in 1934, Mr. Mitchell began his dance training at New York City’s High School of the Performing Arts, where he won the coveted annual dance award and subsequently a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet. In 1955, he became the first male African American to become a permanent member of a major ballet company when he joined New York City Ballet. Mr. Mitchell rose quickly to the rank of Principal Dancer during his fifteen-year career with New York City Ballet and electrified audiences with his performances in a broad spectrum of roles. Upon learning of the death of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and with financial assistance from Mrs. Alva B. Gimbel, the Ford Foundation and his own savings, Mr. Mitchell founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with his mentor and ballet instructor Karel Shook. With an illustrious career that has spanned over fifty years, Mr. Mitchell was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, a National Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the New York Living Landmark Award, the Handel Medallion, the NAACP Image Award, and more than a dozen honorary degrees.  

Amy Seiwert enjoyed a nineteen-year performing career dancing with the Smuin, Los Angeles Chamber, and Sacramento Ballets. As a dancer with Smuin Ballet, she became involved with the “Protégé Program,” where her choreography was mentored by the late Michael Smuin. She was Choreographer in Residence there upon her retirement from dancing in 2008 until 2018. Named one of “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine, her first full evening of choreography was named one of the “Top 10” dance events of 2007 by the SF Chronicle. Other awards include a Bay Area IZZIE Award for Outstanding Choreography and a “Goldie” from the San Francisco Bay Guardian.  Her ballets have been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kennedy Center, and the Joyce Theater in New York City. Seiwert’s ballets are in the repertory of BalletX, Smuin Contemporary Ballet, Ballet Austin, BalletMet, Washington, Atlanta, Oakland, Colorado, Louisville, Cincinnati, Carolina, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee and American Repertory Ballets as well as Imagery, ODC/Dance, and AXIS Dance. Ms. Seiwert will be joining Smuin Contemporary Ballet as Associate Artistic Director for the 2023-24 Season.

Ethan Stiefel is an internationally recognized Instructor, Coach, Director and Choreographer. Stiefel became American Repertory Ballet’s Artistic Director in July, 2021. In 1989, Stiefel began his professional dance career at age 16 with the New York City Ballet where he quickly rose to the rank of Principal Dancer. Stiefel was also a Principal Dancer with Ballett Zürich followed by being a Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) from 1997-2012. Stiefel has served as Dean of the School of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) as well as the Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. During his celebrated performing career, Stiefel danced leading roles in all the full-length classics and performed in an extensive range of shorter classical, contemporary, and modern works. Guest appearances include dancing with The Royal Ballet, The Mariinsky Ballet, New York City Ballet, Teatro Colon, The Australian Ballet and many others. He has appeared in numerous film, video and television productions including the feature film Center Stage and the documentary Born to be Wild. As a choreographer, he has created new works for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, The Washington Ballet, American Repertory Ballet, ABT Studio Company, Northern Ballet (UK), The Royal Ballet School, UNCSA, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the television series Flesh and Bone on the STARZ network. Stiefel has received a number of prestigious awards such as the Statue Award of the Princess Grace Foundation and the Dance Magazine Award.

Led by Artistic Director Ethan Stiefel, American Repertory Ballet (ARB) is New Jersey’s preeminent ballet company, presenting classical repertory alongside new and existing contemporary work. ARB is a founding resident company of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center while also performing in major venues across New Jersey and beyond for an annual audience of more than 30,000. Founded in 1954 as the Princeton Ballet Society, ARB has been designated a “Major Arts Institution” by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts consistently for the past two decades and has repeatedly been awarded a Citation of Excellence by the Council. The company has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and other major foundations and leaders in the field as a prominent force in the field of dance. Princeton Ballet School, ARB’s official school, attracts talent from around the world while providing opportunities for local students of all ages, such as through its award-winning DANCE POWER program.

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