Ballet Stars

#TBT: These Dancers' Childhood Recital Photos Will Make Your Day

Houston Ballet principal Connor Walsh getting early practice as a leading man. Photo courtesy Connor Walsh

It's that time of year again—recital season! And not so long ago, some of your favorite ballet dancers were having their own recital experiences: dancing, discovering, bowing, laughing, receiving after-show flowers, making memories, and, of course, having their pictures taken! For this week's #TBT, we gathered recital photos—and the stories behind them—from five of our favorite dancers.

Gillian Murphy, American Ballet Theatre

Murphy gets ready for her role as "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Photo courtesy Gillian Murphy.

"This photo was taken by my mom when I was 11, waiting in the dressing room (the band room of West Florence High School in South Carolina) before I went onstage as 'Mary' for a recital piece featuring 3-year-olds as little lambs.I had so much fun being the teacher's assistant in the baby ballet class each week, particularly because my little sister Tessa [pictured below] was one of the 3-year-olds. I remember feeling quite grown up at the time because I was dancing in the older kids' recital piece later in the program, but in this moment I was just looking forward to leading my little lambs onstage in their number."


Little sister Tessa Murphy in her lamb costume. Photo courtesy Gillian Murphy.


Sara Mearns, New York City Ballet

Mearns and classmate Christian Tworzyanski (now a dancer with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo) get ready to tap their way to a trophy. Photo courtesy Mearns.

"This is me and former NYCB dancer Christian Tworzyanski in a piece called 'Bei Mir Bist Du Schön.' I was 8 and he was 10. It was our first tap competition duet number. We took it everywhere, and we would always win first place overall! I think it was because of Christian's tapping and my acting. Our amazing tap teacher, Mrs. Maura, drilled stage presence into us and showed us how to have fun and capture the judges' attention. I still remember the routine today!"


Connor Walsh, Houston Ballet

8-year-old Connor Walsh rocks his sequined headband. Photo courtesy Walsh.

"I think most dancers have a photo that haunts them as well as makes them laugh hysterically. For me, this is that photo and the sequin headband is there to prove it. We're in the middle of the 90s and this 8-year-old boy didn't know what hit him. I think it's important to learn to laugh at ourselves from time to time, and looking at early recital photos is always a good place to start."


Ashley Murphy, The Washington Ballet

A teenage Murphy, channeling Degas. Photo Courtesy Murphy.

"I believe I was a freshman in high school when my teacher made a piece about Degas and his paintings of dancers. This came to be one of my favorite ballets to perform because we were the dancers in the paintings that came to life. The music was beautiful and it was my first time really connecting with the art of dance and the passion of wanting to express emotion."


Sarah Ricard Orza, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Pastel perfection: Orza strikes a dramatic pose. Photo Courtesy Orza.

"I was 7 years old in this photo. It was taken at my first dance studio, The Studio For Dance Education in Exeter, New Hampshire. I remember so vividly the look, the feel of this costume—I think it was the first 'real' costume I wore. I was so excited to wear it and perform onstage! My parents brought me yellow roses after the show. A professional photographer was hired to snap pictures of all the dancers afterwards—we could choose our own pose and I remember feeling so confident sitting down and hitting this one, though I couldn't say now why I chose it!"

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