Born in Leipzig, Stephan Thoss completed his studies at the Palucca School in Dresden, East Germany. There he was strongly influenced by Patricio Bunster, a former soloist with the Kurt Jooss Ballet, who went on to direct the National Ballet of Chile. For three years, Thoss studied German Expressionist dance, based on the theories of Rudolf Laban.
In 1983, Thoss joined the ballet company of the Saxon State Opera Dresden. After stints with the Komische Oper Berlin and Staatstheater Kassel, he returned to the Dresden Opera as a soloist (1991), and then resident choreographer (1992). It was here that his first choreographies were born: The Four Seasons (1992, music by Vivaldi), Isle of the Dead (1993, Rachmaninov), Romeo and Juliet (1994, Prokofiev), Devil-Angel (1996, Steve Reich) and Illusion (1998, Anton Webern/Maurice Ravel).
In 1994, he accepted an invitation from Macia Haydée to serve as a guest choreographer with the Stuttgart Ballet. There he created a new ballet set to Stravinsky’s Les Noces. He subsequently received commissions from some of the world’s most renowned dance companies, including the Bavarian National Ballet, the Hamburg Ballet, the Balletto di Toscana in Florence, and NDT2.
From 1998 to 2001, Thoss was the ballet director of the Bühnen der Landeshaupstadt / Kiel Theatre. By this time, he had already created over fifty choreographies, ranging from short solos to full-length ballets, as well as surrealist-inspired abstract ballets, burlesque comedies, ballets d’action, and a reinterpretation of Giselle.
In 2001, he left Kiel to become the director of the Staatsoper Hannover, which at the time had some thirty dancers. From 2001 to 2006, he created 20 new choreographies. In addition to revisiting such classics as Swan Lake (also performed by the Aalto Ballet Essen) and The Rite of Spring, he created several new ballets, among which Obscurus, Nach Moskau and Incantation.
In August 2007, Thoss became the ballet director of the State Theatre Wiesbaden, changing the company’s profile from classical to modern, with a repertoire of contemporary works. In his first three seasons, he presented eleven ballet productions—full-length works and triple bills, including seven world premieres. The company is now well-known for the variety of themes explored, from abstract and surrealist works, such as Heim suchen (Searching for Home) and Irr-Garten (Maze), to reinterpretations of ballets in the classical repertoire, such as Giselle M., Sleeping Beauty, and Between Midnight and Dawn: Swan Lake, which have become milestones in the company’s history, acclaimed by critics and public alike. Thoss also has an affinity with comedy and burlesque, as reflected in such productions as Bolero, No Cha-Cha-Cha and Carmencita. In 2008, he created Poem an Minotaurus for the Picasso on the Move production of the Saarlaendisches Staatstheater in Saarbrucken. His company performs regularly in Europe and around the world.
In recent years, in addition to conceiving the choreography, he has also selected the music, and designed the sets, costumes, and lighting for his works. His meticulous, minimalist visual aesthetic and unique choreographic language bring a heightened intensity to his ballets.
In May 2011, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal presented the North American premiere of Searching for Home, a ballet by Stephan Thoss.