Show and Tell: Inside Gillian Murphy's Dance Bag

Gillian Murphy of American Ballet Theatre leaves good luck charms out of her dance bag.
Published in the October/November 2008 issue.

Gillian Murphy with her Dance Bag

Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

American Ballet Theatre principal Gillian Murphy, photographed in her dressing room at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC, found her embroidered canvas tote bag while visiting her sister at Dartmouth College. “At first I thought of it for groceries, but then it became my dance bag!” she says. “It’s great because you can actually wash it, which is useful after too many ballet shoes have been in there.”

When asked what can’t she survive a day without, Murphy replies, “My Gaynor Minden pointe shoes! I like to wear a new pair for performance, but my shoes last forever so I continue wearing them in rehearsals and classes.” Rarely without a book in hand, she is especially enthusiastic about her current read, The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. “I’m a huge fan and a big supporter of his,” she says.  

Murphy avoids good luck charms of any kind. Instead, she surrounds herself with people and things that inspire her and make her happy. “Whenever Ethan [Stiefel] is around, he cheers me up, but I can’t fit him in my bag,” she says, confessing that she loves wearing the delicate necklace he gave her for her birthday. She’s also cheered by her new Matt Murphy (no relation)–designed T-shirt that reads, “Breathe in the positive, breathe out the negative.”

The Goods

A photo of longtime boyfriend Ethan Stiefel on his motorcycle, used as a bookmark; legwarmers (hand-knit by her mother); two pairs of pointe shoes and a pair of ballet slippers; leotard; T-shirt; Radetsky Wear tights; Altoids; lip gloss; perfume (Sugar by Fresh); book; scissors; needle and dental floss for sewing shoes; digital camera containing photos of her cat; small Coach change purse with her wallet and cell phone (kept off while at work); iPod nano (classical to reggae music); small notebook and pen; tour book for ABT’s recent tour to Japan, South Korea and Orange County; water and Emergen-C (she combines the two); Biofreeze to use on sore muscles “at any point in the day.”