This is How Gillian Murphy Became Such a Great Dance Actress
As a member of American Ballet Theatre for more than 20 years—and a principal for 16—Gillian Murphy has danced her fair share of iconic roles. Yet what transforms each of her performances from entertaining to unforgettable is not just her rock-solid technique or wow-worthy turns, but her artistic approach.
She recently told Dance Magazine about the work that goes into her seemingly effortless portrayals of everyone from a calculating Gamzatti to a head-over-heels Juliet.
Spending Time in the Corps Made Her a Better Principal
"For something like Giselle or Juliet, I'm so familiar with the stories from dancing all of the other roles as I came up through the ranks. I already know that there's going to be a lifetime of trying to delve into those characters and find nuances."
Getting Into The Character's Skin Takes Research
Murphy channeling Lizzie Borden. Photo by Marty Sohl, courtesy ABT.
"I like to go into dramatic roles with a sense about who the character is. I did the most research for Lizzie Borden in Fall River Legend. I went to Fall River, Massachusetts, and got some books to read about her. That character is not about the steps. It's really about who she is and what she's going through."
"Once I have a general sense of who the character is, the next step is understanding where the tricky bits are in the choreography. And then, it's playing with my imagination and perhaps having an internal dialogue."
"My aim is not to create a stage persona, but to really immerse myself in the character in an authentic way. I want to channel their feelings through my understanding of that experience."
Her Approach To Movement Isn't What It Used to Be
"I've learned that doing everything full force at every moment isn't particularly interesting. You want to work as hard as you can at all times, but I've found that it can be good to pull back and breathe. Having those parts makes the dynamic moments resonate more."
She Brings Her Personal History to Her Roles
Murphy in The Dream. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT.
"I definitely pull from my own experiences of falling in love or suffering loss. But there's also my imagination, which has been cultivated by reading, going to museums and live theater and concerts."
Her Ideal Partnership Is a Silent One
"With my partner, if we can purely respond to each other's characters through dance in the moment, I find that ideal. There's no need to discuss anything because it's really a physical body language, and I can read and feel what he's conveying to me. I want to be totally immersed in the live music and the character or the style, and just see where it goes."
She Never Stops Questioning Her Choices
"In a long season or a role I've done countless times, it's vital to keep it fresh and rethink things in rehearsal, but also to just go with the flow emotionally. If the dancer is inspired, that comes across to the audience that something special is happening."
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: