Gillian Murphy was born in Wimbledon, England and raised in the United States. Murphy began her ballet training at the age of three in Belgium and continued her ballet classes at the age of five in Florence, South Carolina. After training in South Carolina as a member of the Columbia City Ballet, she continued her studies at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Under the tutelage of Melissa Hayden she danced principal roles in several of the school’s ballet productions including The Nutcracker and George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, Western Symphony, Tarantella and Theme and Variations. In 1994, at the age of 15, Murphy was a finalist at the Jackson International Ballet Competition. In 1995, she was awarded the Prix de Lausanne Espoir after performing the final round at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. In 1996, she was a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts Level I awardee and a Presidential Scholar nominee. In 1998, she was honored with a Princess Grace Foundation-USA grant.
Murphy joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in August 1996, was promoted to Soloist in 1999 and Principal Dancer in 2002. Her repertoire with the company includes Gamzatti in La Bayadère, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Kitri in Don Quixote, Lise in La Fille mal gardée, Gulnare in Le Corsaire, Myrta in Giselle, Hagar in Pillar of Fire, second girl in Fancy Free, the pas de deux in Flames of Paris, Grand Pas Classique, His Memory and His Experiences in HereAfter, the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, the first and third movements in Symphony in C, and the ballerina in Études.