Photo by Rosalie O’Connor
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Raised in Florence, South Carolina, Gillian Murphy began her ballet training at the age of three in Belgium and continued her ballet classes at the age of five in South Carolina.
After training in South Carolina as a member of the Columbia City Ballet, she continued her studies at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Under the tutelage of Melissa Hayden she danced principal roles in several of the school’s ballet productions including The Nutcracker and George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, Western Symphony, Tarantella and Theme and Variations.
In 1994, at the age of 15, Murphy was a finalist at the Jackson International Ballet Competition. In 1995, she was awarded the Prix de Lausanne Espoir after performing the final round at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. In 1996, she was a National YoungArts Foundation Winner in Dance. In 1998, she was honored with a Princess Grace Foundation-USA grant. The Princess Grace Foundation awarded her its highest honor, the Statue Award, in 2009. In May 2014, Murphy was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from her alma mater, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Murphy has appeared as a guest artist in Japan, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Canada and throughout the United States. She made her debut with the Mariinsky Ballet in March 2008, dancing Odette-Odile in Swan Lake. She danced La Bayadère with The Australian Ballet in 2014. Other guest appearances include the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Kiev Ballet and the 2009 world premiere of a new production of The Nutcracker, directed and choreographed by Ethan Stiefel for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Murphy joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in August 1996, was promoted to Soloist in 1999 and Principal Dancer in 2002.
Murphy danced Odette-Odile in the ABT telecast of Swan Lake and also appeared in the ABT telecast of Le Corsaire. Other television credits include the Washington Opera’s Die Fledermaus and, in November 2010, an appearance on the series “Gossip Girl.” During November 1999, she also participated in the Melissa Hayden Project, part of the Balanchine Foundation’s video series filming dancers, who worked with George Balanchine, teaching their roles to young performers. The Foundation filmed Hayden teaching Murphy the pas de deux from Stars and Stripes and Donizetti Variations. Murphy was seen in the feature film Center Stage and also appeared in the sequel, Center Stage 2: Turn It Up.