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He Played Cooper in "Center Stage." See Ethan Stiefel Now at 49.

The occasional actor is still heavily involved in the dance world.

Over 20 years after its initial release, the 2000 dance drama Center Stage still has a lot of passionate fans. The movie is about students who begin training at a ballet academy in New York City with positions in a professional ballet company on the line, and it features all the romance, rivalries, and dance that you would expect. While some of the stars are mainly actors, a lot of them are real, professional dancers. Take Ethan Stiefel, who plays Cooper in Center Stage. He was already a professional ballet dancer when he was cast in the film, and his dance career continued on afterward. He has also worked in other areas, including serving as a ballet company director. Read on to learn more about Stiefel's life today.

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He's a very accomplished dancer.

Ethan Stiefel in "Center Stage"
Columbia Pictures

During the time that Stiefel made Center Stage, he was a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Stiefel. He was with the company from 1997 to 2012, and towards the end of his tenure, he was also the dean of the School of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Then, from 2011 to 2014, he was the artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Stiefel has also worked as a director, instructor, and choreographer with various dance companies and was a choreographer for the TV series Flesh and Bone.

He currently heads another company.

Ethan Stiefel in a rehearsal in 2003
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In 2021, Stiefel became the artistic director of American Repertory Ballet in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

"I am very fortunate to again have the opportunity to become an artistic director," Stiefel said in a statement when the news was announced, as reported by Pointe magazine. "I believe most arts organizations have taken stock during these times and are exploring ways to pioneer, diversify and reinvigorate how they approach their internal culture, while seeking to offer current and relevant inspiration for communities and audiences. I am looking forward to helping American Repertory Ballet emerge from these challenging times and to being a part of developing the art form within the organization and the communities we serve."

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He did some more acting after his first film.

Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel at the 2016 Princess Grace Awards Gala
Gary Gershoff/WireImage via Getty Images

Stiefel returned to acting two more times after Center Stage for the movie's TV sequels. He once again played Cooper in the 2008 sequel Center Stage: Turn It Up and in the 2016's Center Stage: On Pointe. He also appeared as himself on an episode of Gossip Girl in 2010.

Stiefel reunited with his Center Stage co-stars in 2020. Their virtual reunion raised money for American Ballet Theatre's Crisis Relief Fund. During their chat, the actors talked about the representation the film offered for male dancers.

"As we've all discussed because of the people that we were working with on the film, on every level, as someone who, since the age of eight or nine, was pursuing a ballet career took a great sense of pride in the fact that I was given the chance to present dance on the highest level," Stiefel said, according to Variety. "And all you can do is present your art form in the best light possible. That's a huge responsibility and one that I didn't take lightly, but at the same time if we're still talking about this film right now 20 years later and some of the topics that we are discussing, it seems it did resonate."

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He's married to a fellow dancer and Center Stage star.

Stiefel married Gillian Murphy, a fellow ballet dancer, in 2015. Murphy has been a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre since 2002 and first joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet in 1996. She was also in Center Stage, playing a student at the dance academy, and joined her husband on Gossip Girl. The couple welcomed a son, Ax Stiefel, in June 2019.

"Overwhelmed with infinite [heart emoji] for this little guy!!" Murphy wrote on Instagram next to a photo of Ax not long after he was born. "Huge thank you to each and every one of you for your messages & warm welcome of Ax Nathaniel Stiefel (Ax means 'Father of Peace')."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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