Gillian Murphy is an icon of American ballet. A principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater for more than a dozen years, she and her then-boyfriend (now husband) Ethan Stiefel were considered ballet’s golden couple when they danced together and Gillian is, in her own right, supremely accomplished – a slew of accolades are a testament to this, as are the glowing reviews for her various performances. Her potrayal of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake is considered particularly special, so much so that she was ABT’s choice to dance the role in the PBS filming of their production. But don’t just believe the hype and watch for yourself thanks to the magic of of Youtube, where, as Gillian kindly informed me, there are videos of her PBS performance available.
Despite her rockstar status in today’s classical dance scene, Gillian exudes no airs of a diva. During our hour and half conversion last month, she is calm of voice, unassuming in nature and thoughtful. She is able to strike the elusive balance of being self-assured in her capabilities with none of the arrogance that often comes with it. Maybe the work ethic that ballet dancers need tends to winnow out the cocky. But big personalities exist in every profession, so to have Gillian’s quiet and steady leadership – along with her killer dance abilities – among the myriad of personalities leading the ballet world can only be a good thing.
C&V SESSIONS WITH GILLIAN MURPHY
What did you have for breakfast?
I slept in so I’m having coffee now. I haven’t had a real day off in a couple of weeks…so I’m pretty tired. I’m going to have breakfast after this.
You just finished the Fall season?
Yes, and on Monday I danced for the premiere of Flesh & Bone. They asked James Whiteside and I to dance the Don Quixote pas de deux and coda for the screening of the first episode. And yesterday I had gyrotronics, did a bunch of errands all day and went to see Wendy Whelan’s performance at BAM. So it’s been a little bit crazy, but I can’t complain.
You’re enjoying a bit of downtime now.
My next performance is in 10 days. So I can take today and tomorrow off before I ramp back up with classes and rehearsals.
Let’s go back a bit to when you were younger. You mentioned dancing the Black Swan pas de deux when you were 11.
Yes I did!
I was at a very small school in Florence, South Carolina, which is a rural part of the country. They asked me to dance at an arts festival, and asked what I would like to dance. I said I wanted to dance the Black Swan pas de deux. So it was my choice!
It was fairly inappropriate for an 11 year old. I had no idea what I was doing but I watched a lot of videos –Cynthia Gregory and Makarova and Evelyn Hart. Learnt a little something about the art of seduction from them. But I had no clue. I would go into the studio everyday and try to do one extra fouettés to build up to the 32.
You started pointe when you were 10. And by 11 you were comfortable enough to do all those fouettés?
I was always pretty comfortable on my toes. Even in kindergarten I was walking around on my toes in my sneakers.
I really enjoyed it. Obviously it wasn’t my ultimate Black Swan – at least I hope it wasn’t! I think I’ve learnt something since then.
But I did enjoy it – that whole process of building up to it and performing it was a big moment for me. Just to come into my own as a young performer.
That’s really impressive.
Thanks, but not sure if I would recommend it for a young dancer! I got so much out of having so much performance experience early on, but there’s also something to be said for focusing on fundamental training at that age.
Gillian Murphy in La Bayadère
Credit: Gene Schiavone
You strike me as someone who’s quite sure of herself from a young age – after winning a Prix scholarship you chose to stay back to train at North Carolina, and you deferred joining the ABT to finish high school. It takes a certain amount of faith in yourself to say, hold up, I think maybe this approach would be better for me as opposed to jumping headfirst into every opportunity.
I think I’ve always had a fair amount of confidence. But I’ve also always had a sense of priorities
In the case of choosing to go to North Carolina School of Arts for my final year, it was a priority for me to be in an environment I loved with my friends and a teacher who was phenomenal, who was looking out for me and helping me. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to go to one of the more famous schools of the world. I knew NCSA was the best place for me.
In terms of asking ABT if I could join a few months later and graduate from high school, I just felt strongly that I needed a high school diploma.
So I guess it wasn’t confidence – maybe a little bit! I think I was confident that if they wouldn’t agree to that then I could dance in another company, even if it was a smaller company. But it was that important to me to graduate from high school.
I think you need a certain level of confidence to get out there and perform but every dancer also has his or her share of insecurities.
Many young dancers these days are big admirers of the Russian technique, like with Vaganova, or the training at Paris Opera and so on. You’re one of the icons of American ballet today and have had some great teachers, like Melissa Hayden and Georgina Parkinson coach you here in your home country – so what, for you, are the strengths of American ballet?
I think American ballet training focuses on versatility and being able to do any style.
So with a pure foundation of technique and artistry, you can really do any type of style. For instance, in a Russian classic full-length, an American dancer is aware of the choices you can make to give it that kind of presentation.
There’s also a fair amount of Russian training that goes into American training just through history, through the 20th century. I think it’s an amalgamation of all these techniques and styles from around the world. Taking, I would think, the best of everything – I’m not sure if it sounds over the top!
Versatility is a key part of American training, and the purity of not having affectations. So if you have affectations or mannerisms, it’s a choice.
So I feel that a well-trained American dancer is prepared to dance a Bournonville ballet or Grand Pas Classique or a Russian full-length La Bayadère type and still do Balanchine and Robbins, which are obviously completely different from each other, and modern dance and new works, and move in different ways and directions rather than being locked into one particular way or style.
Is it a challenge for you to move your body in such a different way, as modern dance can require?
I think it’s always a challenge for any dancer to move in a different way. I think it’s important to embrace that challenge, to dig in and learn from it.
One of the experiences that was most shocking for me was doing Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels and then the next day doing Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. It couldn’t be more different in terms of how your weight is supposed to be and how turned in or turned out you’re supposed to be – just everything about it!
But I love that. I love that range of repertoire, and I think that’s one of the strongest parts about American Ballet Theatre: how much the dancers embrace that diversity of repertoire and try to push themselves in every way possible.
Are there any choreographers you would like to work with in the future?
I’m always on the lookout. I try to see as much modern dance as I can in New York and I’d love to see more choreographers from Europe and around the world who haven’t yet been seen in New York. So I’m open to suggestions.
But I have a personal favourite – Ethan [Stiefel]. He’s been doing more choreography, and I have gotten to work with him and to be choreographed by him. I look forward to doing that more.
You’ve mentioned that you and Ethan didn’t have problems keeping things professional when you danced together. What was the dynamic like when he choreographed on you?
It was great. Actually with a partnership – with partners in a pas de deux – I feel there needs to be an ongoing conversation, a dialogue with what each person needs and can you do this, and I’ll try to do that. That was almost always seamless with Ethan.
With him as choreographer there’s a bit of a dialogue but it’s more of my taking his direction. It made a lot of sense – it felt good to be his muse. His beer maiden in Bierhalle.
The ABT studio company is actually going to be performing the main pas de deux from Bierhalle where the beer maiden and the hunter do a romantic pas de deux. They each have a variation and then there’s a little coda that was created specifically for this as an excerpt, because in the full ballet there are other characters.
The studio company dancers look wonderful in the pas. It’s a great group of dancers and it will be adorable. So I may or may not be dancing it anytime soon, but they will be, and I look forward to seeing it.
When you watch other dancers do you think, oh she’s doing something different, maybe I could use that in the future.
I’m always looking at every dancer in class and in performances and seeing what I love about their dancing, and what works and doesn’t work.
I’m usually aware of choices people make or things they don’t even know they’re doing but are really working. But I try not to take that and copy it.
I’m just inspired that they brought something within themselves to the movement and the character and try to do that in my own way.
Gillian Murphy modelling for Escada
You’ve been a principal dancer for many years now. In ballet there’s always something to improve on, but do you feel that you’ve reached or mastered a certain level of technique that you’re comfortable with?
I don’t know. I feel like it’s always an ongoing process, being a dancer in pursuit of artistry. I always feel pretty solid that I’m going to do my 32 fouettés. But those fouettés can be improved upon – more dynamic and so on.
For me, what I’m working on is bringing more dimension to characters and to my movement, and to create a mood and feeling on stage rather than going out there and doing steps.
I feel like that process will never end. I mean, I’ll retire. But it’s so interesting to see coaches who don’t dance anymore – because at a certain point it’s impossible to do all this physically – but their artistry continues to develop. They can change the atmosphere in the room with just a port de bras. It’s a beautiful thing.
I feel that you have to have a certain confidence in your technique. But I’m always learning and I’m always trying to grow as much as possible. And to give and be more generous onstage with my partner and the audience and not hold back.
Mainly emotionally, yeah.
So when you start preparing for a ballet, how do you go about making a role your own?
It starts from mainly learning the material, getting that confidence with the steps and the vocabulary. And from there, throughout the rehearsal period I’m playing with how to do those steps and how to do them better. Listening to my coaches, who are wonderful and supportive, and talking to my partner – like what do we want to do with this and what are we saying.
Just asking questions – not even verbally sometimes – and really investigating how to bring the movement to life and make it meaningful. Through that process I think it’s inevitably making it one’s own, because I’m the one who’s trying to explore these moments.
And in terms of character, personal interpretation comes out because I’d had my own experiences in life and those very much influence how I see the character and my emotional response to what the character goes through.
Right. Because that does seem like a challenge at ABT, where each season is fairly brief. You dance something like Swan Lake maybe once or twice, instead of having the chance to revisit the character multiple times within a certain period and re-explore that character.
It does. Especially for a younger dancer just starting out. For instance, when I had my first Swan Lake with Marcelo [Gomes]. We had our one matinee show and then we didn’t perform it again for another 8 months, or a year. So you don’t have that momentum of what you got from the performance and everything that happens in a performance that doesn’t necessarily happen in rehearsal. Things just come out during a live performance, so you learn a lot from that experience.
So that is particularly hard for people doing a role for the first time or who are just getting the opportunity to do principal roles.
At this point, I have done Swan Lake so much and so many of the other ballets that it’s not such an issue – all those experiences kind of add up. So it really is fascinating because it might be several months or even a year between a single or two show run. And it feels so different a year later.
It’s really wild – like you haven’t seen someone for a year and you notice how different they look. Whereas if you see someone every day you might not notice. So there’s a stark feeling – maybe I’ll work on how I’ve been using my hands or my eyes or I feel something different with a different partner. It’s kind of a fascinating experience that we don’t do that many shows of each ballet. We’re always doing different ballets all the time. At this point I definitely enjoy that new discovery each time we do a ballet.
And I do love the variety. At the Met season this year I’ll do 6 full length roles in the course of 8 weeks and I’m looking forward to each and every one of those roles. The fact that it’s one or two performances of each ballet doesn’t bother me at all at this point.
You perform so many ballets in that period so during a day of work you could have rehearsals of 3 or 4 different shows – you know, completely different steps, different character, different style. Is it easy for you to switch through those roles quickly?
I think when it’s going from the more contemporary repertoire to the classics and Balanchine – that can be more of a struggle. Everything about it is often different – the physicality, the choreographer’s intentions, music, everything.
But when we get into the Met season generally the ballets have more of a classical flavour. So the difference between Don Quixote and Le Corsaire – I mean, there are differences with say the port de bras and the character – but there’s always going to be the manege at the end of the solo, you know what I mean? There’s some amount of consistency. Once you’ve worked on your pique turn-manege that’ll pretty much be okay for Swan Lake, Corsaire and the 2nd Act Don Q solo. They’ll be different, but it’s not like every ballet is completely different.
This season I’m particularly excited about doing Sylvia and La Fille mal gardée again. Ashton’s style is completely different to Petipa’s’ style, but I think ABT dancers, like many professional dancers, are used to going from one rehearsal to the next, and we just switch gears. We have a 5 minute break at every hour, so there’s a moment to process and regroup.
Yeah. Because it’s totally different if you go from something like La Fille mal Gardee to Romeo and Juliet, for instance. Completely different mood –
Oh yeah – that is really different. Absolutely. The characters and everything.
I remember when I first did Gamzatti and I got thrown into Myrtha in just a few days. I had also done Black Swan recently at the time. And I remember feeling like, wow, my Gamzatti, Myrtha and Black Swan are really similar. Because I was so young and doing these roles for the first time with no time to really delve into the layers of the character. I just had to go out there and use my intuition and make the steps look as effortless as possible.
But as this point I see each character as quite distinct. So that changes the movement of each character as well – aside from the choreography which can be very different in some cases and not as different in others.
Gillian Murphy in Giselle
Credit: Royal New Zealand Ballet
I guess that’s when experience counts.
I think it does help and why it’s great to be doing these roles that I’ve done before. All these experiences kind of add up, and I can let go and just play with the range of possibilities.
What’s been wonderful coming up through ABT is that I’ve been lucky in that each role has been kind of a building block. My repertoire has slowly built steadily. So I could really concentrate on the new roles in addition to trying to delve deeper into the roles I had done before. And this season I’m so looking forward to doing them again.
I’m sure it’s fair to say that whenever you dance these roles there’s always something different to explore.
I think so. It’s hard to say how different they look but they certainly feel different. At ABT we’re always changing partners a lot. And for me my partner changes everything, because I’m always trying to be in tune with what they’re doing and where they’re at and trying to respond. It absolutely changes everything.
I read an interview with Ethan Stiefel last year where he said you could dance for 10 years more if you wanted to. Do you feel that way?
10 more years! Wow.
It’s within the realm of possibility, but I’m 36 at this point, so I think we’ll see.
Wendy Whelan just retired, and she’s in her mid-forties, as is Julie Kent. So it certainly is possible. But definitely a few more years, and after the age of 40 I’ll see how I feel. I really do love the repertoire that I perform. It’s a good mix of dramatic roles and the really physical, dynamic Odette/Odile and Kitri roles that require a certain amount of youth, probably! So we’ll see!
Because I don’t necessarily think I would just want to do 1 or 2 roles each year. I do love dancing at ABT, I really enjoy dancing the full range of the repertoire and having those moments to do Juliet and then Sylvia the next week, with the helmet on and jumping. Not planning on retiring anytime soon, but the 10 year mark might be a bit much! We’ll see, I’ll keep you posted!
Have you started looking beyond to that distant future when you do retire? Do you know have any ideas what you might do when the time comes?
At some point I would like to have a kid. And ballerinas have had one or two kids and continued to dance, so that’s a possibility. We’ll see how that goes and how I feel.
I feel that I’ve been given so much by Melissa Hayden and Georgina Parkinson and so many other great coaches who were ballerinas, and I do enjoy working with young dancers so there’s a good possibility that I would like to coach either professional dancers or young students, just to pay it forward.
Do you think you would put your kid in ballet?
If they want to dance – if they have Ethan’s feet! That would be cool.
And your turning ability!
Haha! But no – only if they want to dance. There would be no pressure. We’ve been very fortunate to have the careers we’ve had. It’s been an incredibly journey dancing around the world and on various stages. The camaraderie between dancers is very special.
I think it’s a wonderful life, but it has to be a calling. You have to love to dance or else it would be too demanding.
Because it is a tough life, physically and mentally.
It requires extreme discipline and passion. If you don’t have that then it wouldn’t be worth it. If you do have that, then it’s absolutely a pleasure.
Yeah, you mentioned that your schedule is pretty full-on. Do you have the luxury of giving yourself a break?
Generally I get a day off each week to rest and get a massage, do laundry and kind of chill out. Right now ABT has a few weeks off. I do have some outside performances coming up but I can take a couple of days to relax. I’ve been taking some college courses for many years so I have to catch up on that.
And this summer Ethan and I took our honeymoon before the wedding. We took the whole summer off – 6 weeks – travelled to Iceland and throughout Europe. It was a whirlwind and it was awesome. I’d never taken that amount of time off from dancing. It was really fun, but getting back into condition for performance season just took a little while. Because you can’t go from 0 to 60. You have to take class and get stronger and build everything back.
I think having some rest takes discipline as well – there’s always so much to work on in ballet and you can always do more. So maybe you need a bit of discipline to decide that you’re going to take a short break to recharge so that you can go on and give more the next time.
It’s so true. I feel so much better physically if I take a day off each week. Then everything can relax. A massage is most helpful, and physical therapy – just general maintenance.
But I know that some of my friends – they need a little faith in themselves that they’re going to be fine, and that in fact it might be in their best interests to take a couple of days. It takes a moment to get the flexibility and coordination back if you’ve taken a few days off, so that can be really frustrating for dancers. But it might be really be the best thing to take that moment.
And mentally it doesn’t do anyone any good to feel exhausted. It’s important to be inspired, to have that moment of, ‘oh, I’m ready and happy to be back in class’.
Not like, ‘I have to take class.’
How did you find time to plan a wedding on top of everything?
We were engaged for more than 4 years and were in the middle of living in New Zealand and I was travelling back and forth to ABT. There didn’t feel like there was time to put any focus on planning a wedding. Then we started thinking that maybe it was time to start making plans.
Our friend Ryan Hill offered to help us with everything – he’s an event planner – and then one thing led to another, and with our friends’ help it was really not such a big deal in terms of planning. It ended up being the most amazing day. It was so fun. The ceremony was just with our family. We had brunch with them afterwards. And the party at night was just a blast, with many of our closest friends. We had a deejay and so many of our friends are dancers. We’ve seen them dance at parties before and they’re always amazing, but everyone took it to another level! It was really awesome.
It was stress-free and so happy. And we’ve been together for 17 years, so we didn’t have some of the traditional moments at the reception – like we didn’t have a first dance, because we’ve had so many first dances! We just wanted it to feel like a celebration of our union with our family and friends. And that’s what it was .
Gillian Murphy in Cinderella
Credit: Nancy Ellison
If you’re a dancer – much less a female principal dancer – it’s inevitable that you’ll have to deal with criticism. People will criticize everything, from your dancing to your promotion to how pointe shoes look on your feet. How do you filter out what’s helpful and constructive versus what isn’t?
You have to ask yourself – do you agree with that criticism and can you do something about it?
If someone has a problem with my smile, well this is it. Take it or leave it!
Did someone really say something about your smile?
Yeah! So I mean, I’d say that stung a little. But what can you do? This is all I got – I’m gonna do what I can with what I have, and that’s all any dancer can do.
I think it’s important to not let some of that criticism that comes from dance critics and whatnot inhibit artistry. Because obviously, the first response would be to go into your shell and not put yourself out there.
But I really value my coaches’ constructive criticism, because they have a real knowledge of dance and I trust their judgement and their taste. As well as my close friends – certainly they’re supportive and they’re not going to be harsh critics, they’re my friends! But I value their opinions.
So I just take every criticism with a big grain of salt. You have to believe in yourself enough to do what you think is the best way to go about it. As an artist you have to have your own vision, your own interpretation and you have to follow that intuition and intention, and you can’t be constricted by what one person feels is not to their liking.
I try not to take reviews too personally at all. Even a good review. I feel like that would be really detrimental to the creative process. It’s not constructive to be either arrogant or self-deprecating. You really have to be open to the moment, to being an artist and enjoying dancing, and not get caught up in the fact that you’ll never please everyone.
People have their own tastes, and that’s why it’s called an art. Some people will like some things, and some people will see the same thing and really not like it.
For most ballet dancers, becoming a principal dancer is the pinnacle – it’s the dream. Were you mentally and physically prepared when you took on the role of principal?
Yeah, I feel like I was. Like I said, I was very fortunate to have roles that built off each other. It was a steady progression that gave me the confidence to feel ready to be a principal.
When I was promoted it wasn’t like, I arrived. I felt like it was a new beginning. It’s kind of a statement that the company trusts I can carry the evening and be a leader in this art form and in the company. And that this was just the beginning of my journey in doing that.
That’s not always in the case, for someone like Stella [Abrera], people have felt she’s been a leader in ABT for so many years. Her being promoted is an acknowledgement of great artistry.
At any rate it’s a huge honour to be a principal dancer. I don’t take it lightly. There is a sense that I have to live up to that and continually push myself and to find more and more to offer.
Like you said, it’s not just dancing principal roles, it’s also about being a leader –
That’s how I feel about it. Not everyone feels the same way but I certainly take it as such.
In terms of your company, is it about setting an example for others?
Right. Stella’s an example of that – she’s always the consummate professional, aside from her artistry on stage, which is obviously of the highest caliber.
It’s also about how you conduct yourself in rehearsal – in ABT we’re very friendly and rehearsals can be very funny. It doesn’t have to be all serious, but there has to be a certain professional level of concentration, where we’re working towards something even as we’re having a good time. So I believe that sort of presence and integrity makes you a leader – it’s not sitting alone with your cellphone in between combinations, texting.
There’s a weight and a responsibility that comes with the title.
I think so, that’s how I look at it.
The camaraderie at ABT is really quite evident.
I think so.
And you get all these TV shows –
Where the ballet world is portrayed as so competitive. It’s nice to see beyond the drama of TV.
Yeah. It’s so funny – there’s the stereotype of ballerinas being so mean and so serious that we’re completely self-centered. We do have to be self-aware and there is a serious side to our art, we do take it seriously. But there’s so much banter and so much fun. The friendships that we have in the company are so strong, and you just never see that in these shows and presentations of ballet dancers.
But it’s okay, people want drama.
Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes, The Bright Stream
Credit: Rosalie O’Conner
That’s the nice thing about social media, is that you get to see what it’s really like, what really goes on in a professional company. For someone like me who lives halfway across the world, it’s a privilege to get a glimpse of that.
Yeah. I think it’s fun. I was skeptical first about twitter and instagram, just because I didn’t want it to be a distraction and the self-promotional aspect of it can get a bit out of hand. But it’s really fun, and I get to find out what’s up with so many of my friends that I may or may not see during the day. It’s a little personal journal too – I can look back and see where I was two weeks ago. It’s a bit hard to keep track of sometimes!
People talk about how ballet needs to be more accessible to the general public, and social media is a way to get rid of some of the mystery so that a person who hasn’t been exposed to professional dance can feel comfortable coming to see the ballet.
That’s still an issue, that if you weren’t raised going to the ballet – a lot of people have never been or they’ve only been to their local Nutcracker and or only seen the Black Swan movie.
I’m really excited about what Misty Copeland has accomplished in terms of reaching a broader audience. She’s become a household name for people all over the country, possibly the world, to know about ballet from.
That ballet is not this highbrow thing. I think once you start watching it you realise that ballet is just something to be enjoyed.
I think so. I wish more people would see ballets like the Upper Room or some of the more contemporary ballets that I think speak to people as sort of an introduction to dance, and the fact that there’s so much athleticism and the musicality, and the whole experience, rather than just going into Sleeping Beauty or another ballet that might appear more highbrow.
People don’t seem to think to go to a repertoire program as their first experience, but actually I think little gems like the Dream or Fancy Free would be a good way to introduce ballet to all those people who never considered seeing dance.
I think the more we try to engage people to come see ballet – classical and contemporary – the better. I’m enjoying being part of social media, but I’m pretty sure it’s also a good thing for the ballet world at large to be part of it.
But you were quite social media forward, you did a reddit AMA.
Oh yeah! My sister suggested I do that, as she is totally with it. She and my two older brothers are much more aware of pop culture at large and internet culture. I knew about Reddit but it hadn’t occurred to me to do that. It was fun, but also a bit stressful to write answers in such quick succession!
Would you do it again?
If people were interested I would certainly be happy to answer more questions. But otherwise I would suggest people come see dance and make up their own minds rather than just focusing on the stereotypes they see in the dramatized shows, and the mistaken impressions of what we do or what we’re about.
I’d say just come check out our performances at Lincoln Center and when we’re on tour. And they’re so many great ballet companies around the world too, so just find one of those. That would be my first bit of advice!
What have been the most challenging roles for you to dance?
I think when I was first cast in Pillar of Fire. I was aware that it was going to be a big challenge for me. It’s a role that had a lot of physicality and technique involved but it’s mainly dramatic. Hagar has to exude her loneliness and frustration and suffering through her body at every moment, and she has a journey through the piece where that changes.
I knew it would be a challenge for me, but I also learnt so much from that – from digging into that type of role.
And Fall River Legend, which was more of a challenge from a dramatic standpoint – Lizzie Borden comes out of the house with her axe and it’s evident that she’s just murdered her mum and stepfather. Hopefully this is not my general character or person! So that was real acting involved.
It was a big challenge, me stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m always comfortable doing chaines and jumping and Balanchine – moving quickly. But roles that require me to move slower or be dramatic, like Lizzie Borden, murderess – those are more challenging for me. And ultimately very fulfilling. Daunting but fulfilling.
What moment have you been most proud of in your career?
I think doing the filming for Swan Lake was a big moment for me. It was an honour to be chosen to represent ABT as Odette/Odile for the PBS film.
And going to the Mariinsky and doing Swan Lake there. And being filmed doing Ethan and Johan [Kobborg]’s production of Giselle at the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
Most of my happiest moments are also just because I’m dancing alongside my colleagues. Dancing in the Upper Room, which is an ensemble piece, especially when Ethan was in the cast, and Stella. You all have to come together and you’re just killing yourself. To have done that together collectively – those are some of my happiest moments.
I always love having a solo, but for me, those pas de deux moments with Ethan, with Marcelo and with my other partners that really come together, or those ensemble moments where everyone just feels like it really worked – those are the moments I treasure most. And being part of Ethan’s retirement – that was one of the most exhilarating performances I’ve ever been a part of, just because he was on fire and everyone was there to support him. I was dancing Medora with Marcelo as Conrad and Ethan was Ali. We were just all so pumped. It was so wild and the audience was insane, which was awesome. It was an amazing experience on a professional and personal front.
There are so many moments, and that’s also what I love about this art form – every day is different and you never know what’s going to happen in a performance. But when it really feels right, it’s the best thing, and you share that with your colleagues and the audience – hopefully they feel that as well.
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Original header image: Eduardo Patino for Gaynor Minden