Gillian Murphy & Ethan Stiefel
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. Early in their relationship, Murphy joined him on a three-week, cross-country trek on the back of his Harley Davidson. “It was the first time she had ever been on a motorcycle—ever! It was day one of 3,000 miles,” Stiefel says.
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.”