Graeme Murphy AO b.1950

Graeme Murphy

Graeme Murphy

Graeme Lloyd Murphy was born in Melbourne in 1950, but grew up in Tasmania

In 1968, when he was 14, he was accepted into the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne – the youngest student to gain entry.

Murphy toured the United States with the Australian Ballet’s Don Quixote in 1970-71.

An Australia Council grant enabled Murphy to study in New York with the Joffrey Ballet.

 

The Pied Piper of Dance

In 1989 performing arts writer Pamela Ruskin had this to say about Graeme Murphy:
‘In March 1987, Graeme Murphy’s photograph appeared on the cover of the glossy magazine Follow Me and on posters displayed by newsagents all over Australia. The symbolism is apt, for he is something of a Pied Piper of dance. It is what he asks of his dancers: “Follow me’. And they do, with total commitment. Dancers regard it as a great privilege to find a place in the Sydney Dance Company. He is Australia’s most innovative choreographer. He is, too, an inspired producer. His is a versatile talent and he has the ability to seize each “shining” moment and with his quicksilver mind, move in a new direction with almost every new work. A genuinely charismatic figure, he has a particularly strong following among the younger generation. He is clever, articulate and immensely gifted.’

Graeme Lloyd Murphy was born in Melbourne in 1950, but grew up in Tasmania. His first experience of dance was seeing a touring Tivoli revue – and he was hooked! His first teacher was Kenneth Gillespie in Launceston. In 1968, when he was 14, he was accepted into the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne – the youngest student to gain entry. A scholarship helped pay for his studies. It was at the school that he met Janet Vernon – this was the start of their long professional and personal partnership. In 1968, during his third year at the school, he was invited to join the Australian Ballet.

His performance later that year with Vernon in Garth Welch’s Jeunesse attracted praise from dance reviewers. Murphy toured the United States with the Australian Ballet’s Don Quixote in 1970-71. His first choreographic work, Ecco le Diavole, created to music by Nino Rota, was a highlight of the company’s First Choreographic Workshop, which was presented by the Australian Ballet Society at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne on 17 July 1971.

An Australia Council grant enabled Murphy to study in New York with the Joffrey Ballet. He worked for six months with the Royal Ballet in London, and then joined Vernon who was dancing with Les Ballets Félix Blaska, a contemporary touring company based at Grenoble in France. After this they toured the East with Ballet Caravan, eventually hitch-hiking their way home from Manila.

Murphy tried to freelance as a choreographer. He choreographed 3 Conversations for the Queensland Ballet, Pandora for the Tasmanian Ballet and the full-length Papillon for the Australian Ballet School – but these were not enough to sustain him financially. In 1976 Murphy and Vernon decided to return to the Australian Ballet, as resident choreographer and coryphée, she as a soloist. Later that year Murphy travelled with the Australian Ballet back to London where he danced in The Merry Widow. He also attended the Gulbenkian Foundation summer school there.

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Biographical references

Edward H. Pask: Ballet in Australia – The Second Act, Oxford University Press, 1982
Pamela Ruskin: Invitation to the Dance, Collins, 1989