Born in Reintelm, Germany in 1951, Stephen was brought up in Birmingham, United Kingdom. He received a scholarship from the Royal Ballet Upper School at the age of fifteen. Two years later, in 1969, he graduated to The Royal Ballet Touring Company and two months afterwards he was chosen to dance the Prince in The Sleeping Beauty, becoming possibly the youngest interpreter of this role. He was promoted to the rank of Principal Dancer in 1973 and Senior Principal Dancer in 1979.
In 1976, Stephen was invited to join The National Ballet of Canada as Principal Dancer for one year. Following this he returned to The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden and soon became known as the Company's most versatile Principal Dancer, particularly renowned for his dramatic abilities. He has danced all the lead roles in the classics and had the privilege of dancing roles created specifically for him by choreographers Sir Kenneth MacMillan, David Bintley, Glen Tetley, Sir Peter Wright, Joe Layton, Wayne Eagling, Michael Corder and David Drew. Apart from his career with The Royal Ballet, Stephen was invited to dance abroad in Brazil, Germany, Canada, Japan and Italy, partnering ballerinas Dame Margot Fonteyn, Natalia Makarova, Marcia Haydee, Yoko Morishita, Gelsey Kirkland, Lynn Seymour, Carla Fracci and Alessandra Ferri. He was twice nominated for the Lawrence Olivier Awards in London for the most outstanding performance and voted Dancer of The Year by the Dance and Dancers magazine.
Stephen was appointed Artistic Director of the Hong Kong Ballet in 1996. Since then, he has distinguished himself by adding 17 full length ballets and 6 one-act ballets to the Company's repertoire — re-working classics and introducing such signature original pieces as The Last Emperor (Eagling), The White Snake (Reiter-Soffer), Mu Lan (Hart), Turandot (Weir). The Legend of the Great Archer which was choreographed by him was added to the company's repertoire in 2004 to celebrate the silver jubilee of Hong Kong Ballet.
In February, 2004, Stephen was voted one of the top 20 Artistic Directors in the world, by Dance Europe magazine.