Spotlight on Eleanor Murphy, NYC Ballet’s Tiny Dancer

Who doesn’t adore the magic of the Nutcracker? We were very excited to connect with Ridgefielders Katie-Jane Murphy and her daughter Eleanor Rose to learn about her amazing story as a young dancer in the NYC Ballet’s Nutcracker. Having performed as Bunny in 2022 and in a lead child role in the 2023 season, Elle’s story of talent and determination is a true inspiration to us all. Brava, Elle!

How did Eleanor get started in dance?

Elle was always wiggling and moving around. She started dance locally at 3 years old doing ballet, tap, jazz combos and later hip hop. She did the dance “competition scene” with makeup and fake eyelashes and all for a few years until moving to the School of American Ballet. 

Tell us about her exciting attendance at the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center.

Elle watched the Disney Plus “On Pointe” series during the pandemic and was inspired to audition for the winter term at School of American Ballet (SAB). Acceptance is less than 10% so she went with the mindset of just having a good day, enjoying the experience, and getting out of the house for the first time since the start of the pandemic. She was accepted and is currently participating in class at Lincoln Center four days a week.

Elle at Lincoln Center
Backstage at the School of American Ballet (SAB)
Elle with ballet pointe shoes from principal dancer

“SAB is challenging at times and the commute is a commitment, but it has encouraged me to be a better dancer and also a better person. I am always learning whether in ballet slippers or my Nikes.” – Elle

And now she dances in the NYC Ballet’s Nutcracker!

Eleanor first saw Balanchine’s Nutcracker when 3 years old with our family and Nana visiting from England. It was a holiday tradition and, on that day after the show, she refused to leave the theatre (literally kicking and screaming, saying how she knew then she wanted to be on that stage somed

“I can’t see much when on stage, but I am energized knowing there might be a little girl out there in the audience at her first show seeing for the first time and I want to do my best for her.” – Elle

We’d love to hear about Elle’s lead child role in the NYC Ballet’s Nutcracker this season.

Casting for the NYC Ballet George Balanchine’s Nutcracker is only available to students at SAB and happens in October. Rehearsals run from October numerous days a week after class and on weekends until opening night the Friday after Thanksgiving. Elle and her young peers perform the Nutcracker on stage at Lincoln Center with the professional dancers in the New York City Ballet. After playing ‘Bunny’ last year and being on the front cover of the New York Times this year, Eleanor was cast as a lead child’s role and is on stage for the majority of the first act – over 25 mins nonstop!

The Nutcracker’s children’s cast
Elle in front of poster at Lincoln Center
Elle as ‘Bunny’ – Photo by NY Times Erik Tanner

“The party scene is so fun! I love being on stage dancing and acting with the New York City Ballet. It’s an incredible experience for myself and my peers to share the stage with professionals and they are all so awesome! Our costumes are original over 70 years old taffeta altered every year to fit each child. Mine is so pretty but also very hot and heavy on stage. It takes almost an hour for my mum to put my hair in ringlets before each show and I travel there with a shower cap on to hold it in place, but it looks cute.”  – Elle

How does she (and you!) manage her 4 days a week of classes at the School of American Ballet, all in addition to her studies at Ridgefield Academy?

We are fortunate that SAB really invests in creating a rich learning experience which teaches not only the fundamentals of classical ballet but also the discipline and focus that is key to success in all of life’s endeavors. 

Parallel to that, Ridgefield Academy really sees all students, understands, and encourages Eleanor. For her, the small classroom settings and dedicated teachers have nurtured her and supported us all with managing the comprehensive educational program. She is inspired not only by ballet but at Ridgefield Academy every day to take risks like this and discover her own unique strength, live her passions, and gain confidence. 

We are proud of Elle’s growth, mindset, her confidence, and excitement for learning through this pairing of academic and extracurricular. We often have to make a pit stop at Joy of Movement in town to grab another pair of ballet slippers when we forget them before class! 

Elle (3rd from left) with other SAB students
Elle with her mum after performance

“I have to keep organized but just get it done. Ok, so there might have been days when I finished my homework in the homeroom the next day or if at all! My friends at RA are very supportive of my dancing and I am grateful to have such good friends. If it gets hard, I just think about how many people the show brings joy and happiness to. It’s just magic and no matter what religion you are a really special part of the holidays in New York, and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of that.” – Elle

When she’s not dancing, what are some of Elle’s hobbies and interests?

“Well, I don’t have that much spare time because of school, SAB and commuting but I like playing with my two Labradors Harrison and Lennon (yep there’s a theme!) and my little sister Lili. I am a super Swiftie and really want my parents to get me tickets to see her live in concert this summer! Hint, hint. For now, I love to listen to all ‘Taylor’s versions on vinyl at home and choreograph new dances. Of course, I hang out with my friends. In town we like heading to The Prospector or to get ice cream at Deborah Ann’s whatever the weather!” 
- Elle

Elle is a Ridgefield Academy student and lives in Ridgefield with her parents and sister

Where can our readers learn more about Elle’s amazing ballet career?

Elle and her peers have been featured in numerous press pieces including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal and NY1, and CNN. The casting process is documented in the Disney Plus series “On Pointe.” Elle also has a professional dance and parent monitored Instagram account @The_Elle_Nyc.

How long have you lived in Ridgefield?

We as a family relocated to the area in 2022 from New York, ironically the year Elle was accepted into SAB and started her first year. Elle and her sister Liliane joined Ridgefield Academy in January 2021.

And tell us about you and your husband.

I’m Elle’s British born and raised mum who works full time (usually from home unless traveling for work) as a fashion executive and a global leader in sustainable design. Elle’s dad founded and runs two digital agencies based in Brooklyn, NY. We both share the chauffeuring into Lincoln Center for class and shows every day. Neither of us are ballet dancers! Or any kind of good dancers.  

Fun facts: 

  • Choreographer George Balanchine‘s production of Tchaikovsky‘s 1892 ballet The Nutcracker has become the most famous stage production of the ballet performed in the US today 
  • The production starts at Thanksgiving and runs through New Year’s Eve 
  • 65,000 people will see her on stage throughout the 25 performances 
  • Only SAB students may audition and perform with NYCB in Mr. Balanchine’s Nutcracker
  • Founded by George Balanchine, SAB is the preeminent ballet school in the US
  • Balanchine’s aesthetic teaches students to move with musicality, control, precision, speed, and expansiveness

Photo credits: Katie-Jane Murphy
Top Banner image: Principal NYCB Ballerina Megan Fairchild with young dancers backstage