Beautiful Ballet Couples: Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel (Principals with ABT)
Together over 15 years. Ethan recently proposed to Gillian onstage after a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House.
”We both love dancing together. There’s something exceptional about being on stage with someone you share your life with. And there’s a difference about how you go through the rehearsal process. You can speak differently, with a different level of honesty, knowing each other so well. You can be more direct.”
When Gillian Murphy met Ethan Stiefel, they were at opposite ends of American Ballet Theatre’s roster. She, at 18, was new in the corps de ballet, and he, at 24, was a principal dancer and ABT’s newest star. The first year they were just friends who hung out in a group in which she was often the only girl among five guys. Stiefel says, “It was a loose, fun camaraderie where there were no levels of rank.” Within a year, the friendship had turned to romance.
The couple shares an unmistakable bond, finishing each other’s sentences and often deferring to one another. But they are also strong, independent, and refreshingly candid.
Murphy, a delicate beauty with deep-set, sapphire-blue eyes, is serene and smart, with a strong sense of herself. “Gillian is one of the most direct and brutally honest people I’ve ever met—which was one of her attractions—apart from the obvious,” says Stiefel. She is also courageous.
What impresses Murphy is Stiefel’s leadership quality. After he delivered an impassioned speech to the dancers’ union, some of the dancers began calling him “General.” A natural clown, he also makes his girlfriend laugh. “We can be really silly and romantic,” says Murphy, “but we both have a dramatic and more thoughtful side too.”
They both adore children and someday want their own, but for now they lavish love on Selah, their cat. These days their careers take up almost all their energy and time.
The Full Ballet: Swan Lake (2005)
American Ballet Theatre
Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella
Angel Corella and Gillian Murphy take a bow