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A Free-Born Woman of the USA.

Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie called her, ‘a joy…for every minute of 20 years! She is gifted and smart, willing to absorb from her peers and be an example at the same time. We have watched her grow organically into her potential – blossoming into a truly unique American ballerina with an astonishing command and range of repertoire.'”

As she celebrates her 20th season with ABT, Gill makes the cover of Irish America, and is named one of their inaugural “Top 50 Power Women”. Brava!

Fearless Freddie.

“In his book ‘Looking at the Dance’ (1949), the critic Edwin Denby wrote that Mr. Franklin’s dancing ‘always makes perfect sense; like a true artist, he is completely at the service of the role he takes, and his straight delight in dancing, his forthright presence and openhearted nature give his version of the great classic roles a lyric grace that is fresh and sweet.’ In her book ‘Dance to the Piper’ (1952), Agnes de Mille described him as ‘strong as a mustang, as sudden, as direct and as inexhaustible.'”

He passed in May but I found out this week via my sister’s new Twitter feed: Frederic Franklin, 1914-2013. Up until very recently, you could still Franklin on the ABT stage, as the priest in Romeo and Juliet and similar roles. For Gill as for many other contemporary dancers who got to know him, he was a living link to an earlier generation of ballet. And, if you’ve seen the splendid documentary Ballets Russes, he was a lively and engaging wit as well, with a long life of stories to tell. RIP.

Twisting Sister GIFstered.

As found here while checking to see if the WaPo had reviewed last Saturday’s Le Corsaire at the Kennedy Center — they seem to have caught up with ABT earlier in the week — a fan-made GIF of Gill rocking her fouettes, again and again and again…

An Engaging Spectacle.

From Bridesmaids to a bride-to-be, a hearty congratulations and best wishes to my sister Gillian and her longtime boyfriend Ethan on their recent engagement. Ethan popped the question at ABT’s opening gala last week and, as you can see, he caught little sis by surprise. Much love to you both.

Little Sis Doin’ Work.

Gillian Murphy was an enchanting heroine on Monday, crystalline in her delicate approach to her first solo, steely in her balances in the Rose Adagio, ethereal (if a little tragic) in the Vision scene, radiant in the final act…Ms. Murphy perfectly embodied the teenage shyness and graceful poise of the young princess.” For those of you in Gotham, ABT’s Spring Season is now in full swing at the Met, and the NYT is giving sis her props. Catch her if you can.

Grace Under Pressure. | Beyond Bravura.

“Nevertheless there has been an awakening, a deepening in her artistry that has caught up with her astonishing technique. As more emotionally charged roles come her way, Murphy has surprised many and drawn rave reviews for her acting in ABT’s most somber and sinister ballets. As Hagar, the repressed middle sister in Tudor’s dour drama Pillar of Fire, Murphy is riveting. Her body and facial expressions are taut until her pent up passion erupts with the Stranger Next Door. Murphy’s ax-wielding Lizzie Borden (the Accused) in de Mille’s Fall River Legend skulks and rages, negotiating the emotional curves down to the essence. Her intensity shocked everyone–even herself.

Big doings on the family front: Not only did Gill recently receive a Princess Grace Statue Award for lifetime achievement in dance (that’s the ceremony above — and she did her own speechwriting also), but she is featured (again) as the cover story of this month’s Dance Magazine. (The cover is at right, but the official magazine site seems to scrimp on the quality jpgs — for the time being, check a newsstand near you.) “No one appreciates Murphy’s questioning mind more than [Kevin] McKenzie, who also coaches her. ‘Gillian is a very coordinated and intelligent person,’ he says. ‘If something doesn’t feel natural to her, she has the ability to approach problems from both angles–physical and cerebral.‘”

Thirty on Her Toes.

A very happy birthday to my sister Gill, who turned 30 over the weekend (and who recently garnered some raves in London during ABT’s European swing.) While I won’t be there to enjoy it this year, ABT’s spring season at the Met is right around the corner.

From Russia with Love.

Speaking of bravura performances recently, my sister Gill (on loan from ABT) premiered as Odette/Odile in the Kirov Ballet’s production of Swan Lake over the weekend in St. Petersburg, at the famed Mariinsky Theater. And, through the magic of Youtube, her Black Swan pas de deux is now online:

For the non-ballet folk, that spin move is known as a fouette, and they’re hard!

Careful with that Axe, Gill.

The Accused is a role that demands the ability to transmute technique into the expression of the passionate intensity, psychological pain and pure hatred that drive the character to her gruesome deeds. And in 2007 it also demands a strength of interpretation that can transcend the stylized Americana that makes this work feel museum-piece valuable and dated at the same time. Ms. Murphy managed just that in an impressive role debut on Friday night.

My sister Gillian draws a rave in the NYT for her Fall River Legend on Friday, as excerpted below: “Her auburn hair drawn tightly away from her face into a gleaming skullcap, her pale face tight and impassive above her high-necked dress, she embodied (to borrow the title of a famous piece of feminist literature) the madwoman in the attic — the Victorian antiheroine who incarnates the rage and anxiety forbidden by a sexually repressive, socially coercive society. There is plenty of dancing for the Accused in ‘Fall River Legend,’ but it is testament to Ms. Murphy’s acting that the movements became a seamless part of a succession of memorable emotional moments: her little shudder as the details of the violent acts are read out at the beginning; her suppressed amusement and momentary triumph at her father and stepmother’s fear when she first picks up the ax to chop wood; her disbelieving, scarcely allowable pleasure when the young pastor (Sascha Radetsky, also strong in a role debut) offers her love and compassion. By the time Ms. Murphy, alone onstage at the end, threw back her body and opened her arms in a final, anguished embrace of death and her fate, she had made her character simultaneously tragic and real.

I was at City Center for both the Friday and Saturday evening shows over the weekend, and while Balanchine’s “Ballo Della Regina” honestly didn’t make much of an impression on me, I found “Fall River Legend” quite spooky and memorable. Suffice to say, all sharp objects and implements will be well-hidden next time Gill comes over.

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