Interview | Gillian Murphy
American Ballet Theatre’s rising star keeps quiet.
Given the apparent ease you have in his works, and the impact Melissa Hayden’s training has had on you, what made you choose to pursue a career at ABT and not New York City Ballet?
Okay…Well, I do love dancing Balanchine works, but dancing the full-length classical ballets is just so fulfilling, and having the opportunity to do all those great classics as well as the Balanchine works, and the new choreography, and the modern pieces…American Ballet Theatre’s repertoire is so vast and diverse. And challenging. It was always my dream to dance with ABT—I’m incredibly happy to be here.
You also speak fondly of your time at NCSA—an eternal flame burns for Melissa Hayden on your website.
She was a force to be reckoned with, and she pushed each of us way beyond what we thought was possible. Even 100% was not enough; there was always more we could find in terms of dynamics, in terms of not just doing a step but how you get to that step, what happens between them, how they relate to the music. I’m actually going back to North Carolina as much as I can, because Ethan [Stiefel] is there. I love teaching—I’ll help coach the kids on Sugar Plum, or the pas de deux from Le Corsaire, whatever they’re working on.
Is it a fight to keep up the standards you were taught?
It’s not just about the turns, crazy tricks and high leg extensions [at NCSA]—there’s an artistic impulse behind everything. Competitions, though, get me worried that dance is heading in a really gymnastic direction and I don’t think that’s where we want to go. There’s so much power in simply expressing ourselves in movement that has nothing to do with the physical feats we can do. Hopefully the competition mentality won’t infuse the next generation with the wrong idea.