Interview | Gillian Murphy
American Ballet Theatre’s rising star keeps quiet.
But you took your first dance class in Belgium, right?
Yes, I was actually born in England, while my father was working overseas, then we did live in Belgium for a couple of years, but I really grew up in Florence, South Carolina from the age of about four and a half. After the whole Black Swan experience, my parents realized how much I loved to dance—they already knew that, but they realized that if I ever wanted to pursue this professionally I was going to need to get better training and so my mother started driving back and forth to Columbia when I was twelve. We moved there, briefly, when I was 13, and then I went away to North Carolina School of the Arts when I was 14.
Two years ago you danced Swan Lake in St. Petersburg, Russia with the Kirov Ballet. Did working with the Russians influence how you approached dancing the role, or bring a new perspective on it?
It was a huge honor to be invited to do such a signature, classic ballet, that originated in Russia, at the Maryinsky. But every time I dance the role I learn something new, especially when I’m working with a different partner or coach. When I was at the Kirov I worked with Yuri Fateev, who’s brilliant—he brought so much clarity to certain moments. I was also fortunate enough to work extensively with Georgina Parkinson [the former Royal Ballet star and ABT coach who died last December] and Natalia Makarova on my approach to the role.
So when you came back to Ballet Theatre to do Swan Lake again, you didn’t feel like it needed to go back to the way you had danced it before?
Yeah, no—I always want to move forward.
You’re not just adept at the classics, though. Robert Gottlieb called you “ABT’s one consistently-reliable Balanchine ballerina.”
Oh! That's nice. I try not to read too many reviews. But that's nice.