Interview | Gillian Murphy

American Ballet Theatre’s rising star keeps quiet.

LIFTOFF Murphy takes flight in The Brahms-Haydn Variations.

LIFTOFF Murphy takes flight in The Brahms-Haydn Variations. Photograph: Gene Schiavone

The meteoric rise of American Ballet Theatre principal Gillian Murphy was driven by a rare combination of artistic versatility, nuanced performances, and sheer horsepower. We caught up with Murphy by phone between rehearsals at the company’s studios in New York.

What are you working on?
Anthony Dowell’s been coaching me in The Dream, I worked a bit with Natalia Makarova on La Bayadère, and with Amanda McKerrow on The Sleeping Beauty. I also did a little bit of Romeo and Juliet earlier. And Swan Lake. It’s been a pretty intense day so far.

They’re living legends. Does it make you nervous?
No, it’s inspiring! They have so much to offer, I just try to soak it all up. I’m also fortunate to watch all my colleagues perform on a regular basis; I enjoy seeing what everyone brings to Swan Lake. The first time I danced it was with Marcelo Gomes. Neither of us had ever done it before…Actually, when I was little, my school said I could do any pas de deux I wanted for the local arts festival, so I said “the Black Swan pas de deux.” Which is pretty crazy, really.

How old were you?
Eleven. [Laughs] The Black Swan requires maturity an eleven-year-old could never have, but I was watching videos of Makarova, Evelyn Hart, and Cynthia Gregory at the time, and was completely fearless. I had a blast! I think that also planted the seed for my love of the stage. We took it to Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, actually, which was a highlight of my dance beginnings.

That was in Columbia?
In Florence, South Carolina, actually. I trained a little later in Columbia, and then I went to North Carolina School of the Arts.

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