Ballet Star Gillian Murphy to Speak at UNCSA High School Commencement

Alumna returns for ceremony on Saturday, May 17

Article ID: 616018

Released: 3-Apr-2014 11:00 AM EDT

Source Newsroom: University of North Carolina School of the Arts

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Newswise — WINSTON-SALEM – One of the brightest stars in ballet today, Gillian Murphy will return to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) as speaker for the 2014 high school commencement exercises, Interim Chancellor James Moeser announced. Murphy, who is principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre, graduated from UNCSA’s high school program in 1996.

Diplomas will be granted to an estimated 126 students from across the state, around the country, and as far away as Germany and Japan, during the ceremony that begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 17, at the Stevens Center, 405. W. Fourth St., downtown Winston-Salem. “Gillian Murphy is a shining example of what our high school students can achieve,” Moeser said. “Her story is one of hard work and discipline, and tremendous accomplishment.”

In a guest column published in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of POINTE magazine, Murphy wrote, “It may be a somewhat naïve and romantic notion, but I believe that a ballerina must nurture positive qualities and an openness of mind within herself so that she can share her inner life in a genuine way on the stage… She must go beyond the steps and strive to bring humanity and humility purely and truly to every moment of expression.”Moeser said that concept translates to all art disciplines, and is testament to Murphy’s status as a role model for UNCSA’s high school students, and a perfect speaker for their commencement celebration. “Gillian’s beautiful dancing inspired us in December when she returned as guest performer in The Nutcracker, and I have no doubt that her words will inspire us in May,” he said.

UNCSA Dance Dean Susan Jaffe said Murphy, whom she worked with at ABT, is “a shining example to all of our high school students, not just dancers, that you can reach your artistic goals.

“I was proud to work with Gillian at ABT,” Jaffe added, “and I am honored to welcome her back to her alma mater.”

Murphy, who began her ballet training at the age of three, has received critical acclaim. The New York Times said her performance as Odette/Odile in ABT’s Swan Lake was “perfect, her body stretched to the utmost, a model of clarity and phrasing.” The Los Angeles Times dubbed her the “gold standard” for the Swan Lake roles. The Winston-Salem Journal said Murphy’s performance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in December 2013’s The Nutcracker was “virtually flawless” and “pure perfection.”

She is the recipient of many prestigious prizes, including the Princess Grace Foundation’s highest honor, the Statue Award, in 2009.

About Gillian MurphyRaised in Florence, S.C., 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 Foundation for Advancement in the Arts Level I awardee. 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. Murphy has appeared as a guest artist around the world, including Japan, Mexico, Chile, Greece, 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. Other guest appearances include dancing with the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Kiev Ballet, the Staatsballett Berlin, and in the 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. In 2012, Murphy became principal guest artist at the Royal New Zealand Ballet where she danced the title character in Giselle and leading roles in Balanchine’s Who Cares?, Andrew Simmons’ Of Days, and Stiefel’s Bierhalle.

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. Her repertoire with the Company includes Nikiya and Gamzatti in La Bayadère, the Ballerina in The Bright Stream, Cinderella in Cinderella, Swanilda in Coppélia, Medora and Gulnare in Le Corsaire, Kitri in Don Quixote, Titania in The Dream, the Accused in Fall River Legend, the second girl in Fancy Free, Lise in La Fille mal gardée, the pas de deux Flames of Paris, Grand Pas Classique, Myrta in Giselle, the Queen of Hearts in Jeu de Cartes, Known by Heart pas de deux, Manon in Lady of the Camellias, Lescaut’s Mistress in Manon, the Sugar Plum Fairy in Kevin McKenzie’s The Nutcracker, Desdemona in Othello, Other Dances, Hagar in Pillar of Fire, Raymonda in Raymonda, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (Romeo’s Farewell to Juliet), Princess Aurora and the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Sylvia in Sylvia, the first and third movements in Symphony in C, the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, the ballerina in Theme and Variations, and leading roles in Allegro Brillante, Bach Partita, Ballet Imperial, Ballo della Regina, Baroque Game, Birthday Offering, Paul Taylor’s Black Tuesday, The Brahms-Haydn Variations, Clear, Désir, Diversion of Angels, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, Duets, Études, From Here On Out, Gong, In The Upper Room, Meadow, Les Patineurs, Piano Concerto #1, Pretty Good Year, Push Comes to Shove, Sinfonietta, Les Sylphides and Symphonie Concertante. Murphy has also performed featured roles in Company B, The Elements, Overgrown Path and Without Words.

She created Clara, the Princess in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker and leading roles in Glow – Stop, Kaleidoscope, One of Three, Rabbit and Rogue, Thirteen Diversions and Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison.

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.

In 2013, Murphy starred as Giselle in a Royal New Zealand Ballet movie produced by the New Zealand Film Commission.

About UNCSAAs America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit


MEDIA: The UNCSA commencement ceremonies are not open to the general public. Family and friends of graduating students must have tickets to enter the Stevens Center. However, tickets are available for media representatives. Please call 336-734-2891 or email by April 30 if you are interested in covering this event.


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