Project Description

Georgina Parkinson coaching Gillian Murphy in rehearsal for La Bayadère, American Ballet Theatre, New York, 1999

Georgina Parkinson


How fitting that this gesture literally means “power,” as Georgina Parkinson was such a powerful figure at ABT and also in my career and life. We worked together almost every day for over a decade on the broad strokes and tiniest details of roles such as Odette, Aurora, and her beloved role of Juliet, and this image by Rosalie captures me as a very young and green Gamzatti in La Bayadere, clearly in utter awe of Georgina’s commanding port de bras and artistry. Even though she recruited me to join ABT and was steadfast in her belief and encouragement of my technical and intuitive potential, her capacity to develop careers at ABT was unnerving, and it took me a few years to truly let my guard down in her presence. Georgina was a legendary ballerina with the Royal Ballet, but her coaching style was always geared to bring out the unique qualities of the dancer she was working with, never as an imitation of herself (as much as I may have hoped and tried in moments such as the one pictured). You can see how she so completely embodies Gamzatti’s authority just as effortlessly as she would express Juliet’s vulnerability in rehearsals for R&J. She was not constrained by particular historical styles or preconceived images, and she focused so much of her attention on making sure the dancer’s whole being and artistry was inspired and meaningful. At the same time, she would remind me before particularly nerve-wracking performances that I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel and to “just fucking do it.” Ultimately, Georgina was deeply maternal and the most nurturing coach, and there isn’t a day when I don’t miss her keen wit, resolute encouragement, and extraordinary spirit. Though her impeccable posture and renowned status were intimidating at first, ultimately her true power was in her intelligence, humor, and generosity, and in how she will live on through the hearts and steps of both her family and generations of dancers from the past, present, and future.

Gillian Murphy
Ballerina, American Ballet Theatre
Artistic Associate, American Repertory Ballet