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Ethan Stiefel Brings Internationally Acclaimed Production of "Giselle" to American Repertory Ballet

originally published: 01/26/2023

Ethan Stiefel Brings Internationally Acclaimed Production of "Giselle" to American Repertory Ballet

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- American Repertory Ballet (ARB) presents Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg's internationally acclaimed production of Giselle. Originally created for the Royal New Zealand Ballet under Stiefel's artistic leadership in 2012, Giselle has been restaged and partially redesigned specifically for ARB by the award-winning team of Howard Jones (scenic designer), Natalia Stewart (costume designer), and Joseph R. Walls (lighting designer). Giselle will be performed at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC) March 3-5, 2023.

This production of Giselle from Stiefel and Kobborg has been celebrated for its imaginative and skillful retelling of the classic story. Act I features reinvigorated group dances, more substantial dancing from Hilarion, and a Wedding Couple that drive the narrative with pace and excitement. In the ballet’s iconic Act II, Giselle dances among the ghosts of women who too have died after being betrayed by their lovers, but in Stiefel and Kobborg’s re-imagining, the fragility of these otherworldly women, known as Wilis, are characterized by a unique and determinable strength. Giselle’s love, Albrecht, is depicted as untraditionally remorseful.

“Giselle was so meaningful to both Johan and me as performers during our careers. Excited by the opportunity to honor the legacy of Giselle and to retain the essence of a beloved work that has been iconic for almost two centuries, we have also sought to inject some new pace into the story-telling and to augment the dancing, story, and characters. We had a clear and unified vision of what we wanted to achieve and feel that this production strikes an elegant balance of shedding new light on the classic, yet maintaining what has made Giselle so special for so long,” explains Ethan Stiefel, ARB Artistic Director.

Ethan Stiefel Brings Internationally Acclaimed Production of "Giselle" to American Repertory Ballet

Johan Kobborg, a veteran of the Royal Danish Ballet and London’s Royal Ballet, says of this collaboration, “I am looking very much forward to revisiting, reworking, and tailoring our Giselle production for ARB.  Creating Giselle with Ethan Stiefel in 2012 is to this day one of my career’s creative highlights. Collaborating on the unique task of creating and bringing to life a joint artistic vision and choreographic language proved a wonderfully rare and inspiring process and one that I look forward to further developing on the wonderful dancers of ARB.”

The Stiefel and Kobborg production was the subject of Toa Fraser's 2013 feature film and was selected for screening in the NZ International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival.

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One of the most romantic story ballets of all time, Giselle illustrates the strength of love, the devastation of betrayal, and the power of forgiveness. ​​​​​​​The tragic tale unfolds against the ghostly backdrop of a Rhineland forest haunted by the fearful presence of the “Wilis” – vengeful spirits of abandoned brides. The beautiful peasant girl, Giselle, falls for Albrecht who conceals his identity to win her. The discovery of her lover’s deception shatters Giselle’s innocence and causes her to die of a broken heart. Albrecht is thrown into the hands of the merciless Wilis, but Giselle cannot bear to watch him die and returns as a ghost to save him. One of the most romantic story ballets of all time, Giselle illustrates the strength of love, the devastation of betrayal, and the power of forgiveness.

Giselle will be on stage at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 3 at 7:00 pm, Saturday, March 4 at 2:00pm & 7:00pm, and Sunday, March 5 at 2:00pm. Tickets start at $25. For tickets, please visit

Ethan Stiefel Brings Internationally Acclaimed Production of "Giselle" to American Repertory Ballet

American Repertory Ballet's Giselle is made possible by a generous Leading Underwriter gift from The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund.

Additional production support comes from Leading Sponsor Nora C. Orphanides.

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

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. 

Johan Kobborg is a choreographer and former Principal Dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet and The Royal Ballet London and most recently is the Former Artistic Director of the Ballet Opera National Bucharest. Kobborg has performed with some of the leading companies in the world, such as the Mariinsky, the Bolshoi, American Ballet Theatre, and the National Ballet of Canada. As a choreographer, he has created works for companies such as the Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, San Francisco Ballet, The Sarasota Ballet, and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

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Led by Artistic Director Ethan Stiefel, with Artistic Associate Gillian Murphy, 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 and also performs 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.

RNZB performance photos by Evan Li by permission of the Royal New Zealand Ballet | Featuring Gillian Murphy and Qi Huan

ARB photo by Harald Schrader Photography | Featuring Nanako Yamamoto



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