Stars of American Ballet Theatre perform at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Event Nets $200,000 for Gillian Murphy Dance Scholarship Honoring One of School’s Most Celebrated Alumni
Stars of the American Ballet Theatre recently performed at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in a showcase that netted $200,000 to fully endow a scholarship honoring ABT Principal Dancer and UNCSA alumna Gillian Murphy.
Murphy, who received her high school diploma from the UNCSA School of Dance in 1996, is celebrating her 20th anniversary with ABT this month. She performed along with fellow alumnus Blaine Hoven (high school, ’06) and ABT colleagues Misty Copeland, Isabella Boylston, James Whiteside, Stella Abrera and Marcelo Gomes.
In addition to the performance in Winston-Salem NC, the ABT stars took dance classes and held a question-and-answer session for students, all at the invitation of UNCSA Dance Dean Susan Jaffe, a former ABT principal dancer and ballet mistress.
“Gillian is one of the most important American ballerinas in the dance world today,” said Jaffe. “She is an amazing dancer, possessing power, beauty and artistry, and is thrilling to watch. We are so proud to have this scholarship named in her honor.”
Established in 2014, the Gillian Murphy Endowed Scholarship in Dance provides an annual merit-based scholarship of $25,000 to a talented student for up to four years. Jaffe awards the scholarship during the finals of the Youth America Grand Prix. This year, the scholarship will go to Carolyne de Freitas Galvao of Brazil.
“There is so much possibility for greatness at this school,” Murphy said recently about the scholarship. “The more they recruit very talented artists, the better. It only helps UNCSA to keep developing young artists who take the world stage by storm.”
Following the showcase performance, the dancers attended a dinner with friends and supporters of the UNCSA School of Dance. “I call it the $200,000 dinner,” said UNCSA Chancellor Lindsay Bierman, who noted the donations brought the scholarship corpus to more than $650,000.
“Susan Jaffe hosted an extraordinary event. Our guests were dazzled by the talent and artistry of Gillian and her colleagues, just as our students had been awestruck earlier in the day,” Bierman said. “We’re profoundly grateful these world-class artists invested their time to benefit our School of Dance.”
Murphy and Whiteside performed “On the Water Pas de Deux,” choreographed by Whiteside to music from Franz Schubert, and “Don Quixote Act III Wedding Suite,” choreography after Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, staged by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones to music by Ludwig Minkus.
Copeland and Hoven danced “Toccare,” choreographed by Gomes to music by Ian Ng. Hoven partnered with Boylston for “Stars and Stripes Pas de Deux,” choreographed by George Balanchine, staged by Richard Tanner to music by John Philip Sousa.
Also on the program was “Leaves are Fading Pas de Deux,” danced by Abrera and Gomes, choreography by Anthony Tudor to music by Antonin Dvorak.
Murphy joined ABT at the age of 17 after studying at UNCSA for three years under Melissa Hayden.
“From my first moment on campus, I felt part of a community of young artists who were intent upon training and growing as artists and people,” she said. “It was so special, at the age of 14, to be surrounded by peers who had that same passion for their art that I did.”
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.”
Murphy was born in England and began her ballet training in Belgium at the age of three. Her family moved to Florence SC, and she began training with the Columbia City Ballet.
When she was 14, a story in Dance Magazine sparked Murphy’s interest in UNCSA. “The article featured a student who had won a Princess Grace Award. My mother and I were impressed by that. It spoke very highly of the school that one of their dancers would win that award.”
In 1998, she herself was bestowed with the Princess Grace Foundation-USA grant. The Princess Grace Foundation would go on to award Murphy its highest honor, the Statue Award, in 2009.
Murphy has appeared as a guest artist all over the world, including Japan, Chile, Greece, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and throughout the United States. In December 2015, she returned to UNCSA with her husband, famed former ABT dancer, choreographer and director Ethan Stiefel, who is a former dean of the UNCSA School of Dance. They were guest artists in residence, coaching students for the annual production of “The Nutcracker.”
“UNCSA is a gem of a school. I loved the community there, the support from the faculty and my fellow students, the great academic program,” she said recently. “For me, North Carolina School of the Arts is an incredible place to learn.”
During her recent visit to UNCSA, Gillian Murphy sat down with Dance Dean Susan Jaffe for a discussion about her training and her career.
The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is America’s first state-supported arts school, 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 dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking, and music. Established by the NC 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 when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.