From Ballet to Business: Jonathan Klein and Emily Hayes Launch Their Own Skin Care Company

April 2, 2024

Former American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancers and married couple Emily Hayes and Jonathan Klein are making a big leap into business. After launching their French-made botanical skin-care company, Murmure, last October, the pair officially resigned from ABT in March to give the new business their full attention. Murmure’s products, which are vegan and cruelty-free, have since become the go-to for many of their colleagues, including ABT principals Isabella Boylston and Catherine Hurlin. The entrepreneurial pair shared the story of this new venture, balancing business with ballet, and why they think dancers should talk more openly about life beyond the stage.

Can you give us a bit of background on your careers?

Jonathan Klein: I started ballet at 12, after training intensely as an ice skater. My coaches wanted me to work on my artistry, so they put me in a ballet class. I ended up liking it more than skating! It became my dream to dance at ABT. When I was 18, [then ABT artistic director] Kevin McKenzie saw me at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) and offered me a contract with the corps de ballet. I stayed in France with my family and teachers for a few more years and eventually joined the company in 2012.

Emily Hayes: I came from a small studio in Ohio, where I grew up. When I was around 10 or 12, I started competing in YAGP. Franco De Vita and Raymond Lukens, from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, saw me there and invited me to the ABT Summer Intensive. Eventually I joined the school full-time. When I was 17, I joined the ABT Studio Company, then became an apprentice with ABT in 2014.

  • Jonathan Klein and Emily Hayes, both wearing white lab coats and face masks, look at and touch a large white machine in a lab.
  • In this black and white photo, Jean-Paul Barestepours a dark liquid out of a bottle and into a glass. He wears a white lab coat and stands in front of three shelves of bottled liquids, and a diploma hangs on the wall to his right.

So you met dancing in the company, and now you’re married! How did you two get together?

EH: We had known each other for many years, but we didn’t start talking until 2016, while on tour with ABT in Paris.

JK: France worked its magic on us!

EH: We tried to keep it secretive, but eventually word got out. He proposed in April of 2020 during the pandemic…

JK: We took a trip to [Brooklyn’s] Prospect Park with a picnic to get some fresh air. She had no idea…

EH: And, after many pandemic delays, we got married in August of 2022!

What were some of your dance career highlights? How was it when you were paired to dance together?

JK: Terrible. [Laughs.]

EH: We’re better business partners than dance partners.

JK: I’ve gotten to do some dream roles, including Mercutio on the Met stage, which was a highlight for me.

EH: We danced a pas de deux in Lauren Lovette’s La Follia Variations. And we choreographed a little dance for our wedding!

Jonathan Klein does an attitude derriére during a performance of Romeo and Juliet onstage. He wears a rust colored jacket with puffed sleeves and off-white tights and ballet slippers, and he looks out towards the audience with a joyful smile.
Klein as Mercutio in Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy ABT.

Congratulations on the launch of your new skin care brand. How and why did you decide to start this company?

JK: Well, I’m French, and with that comes the beauty of ballet, and also skin care innovations. I come from an entrepreneurial family who was always traveling, and I spent a lot of time in the south of France with my godfather, who was a well-known herbalist. He wrote a book about his botanical discoveries, and I always knew it was something special.

Emily is interested in beauty and content creation, and I have a friend in France who works in a lab. I scanned my godfather’s book and sent it over to him—he was so excited. We researched for three-plus years, worked on all the formulas, and finally launched a few months ago. It’s been an incredible journey. You don’t stop learning!

EH: I’ve had three serious injuries throughout my career, which have forced me to realize how fragile a career in ballet is. When dancers talk about career transitions, it’s a little taboo—as if having other interests means you don’t deserve the career. It can feel isolating.

JK: Not every dancer sees themselves as a ballet master, teacher, or choreographer. It’s important to identify your skills, set goals, and start planning for tomorrow. That will actually enhance the enjoyment of today!

EH: Since announcing this business, so many dancers have opened up to me about their curiosities outside of ballet. It’s been good to start that conversation and I think it’s something we should all talk about more.

How much of a learning curve was there in starting a business?

EH: It’s not as big and scary a step as people think.

JK: We did it, other dancers can do it too. All of the skills you learn from ballet are transferable—learning hours of choreography is the same as learning how to code a website, and managing stress before a show is very similar to staying calm before a crucial business goal.

Emily Hayes leaps across the stage during a performance, wearing a long purple dress with large puffed sleeves and a gold crown. She holds her arms in a high first arabesque position and looks out towards the audience, smiling confidently.
Hayes in Swan Lake. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy ABT.

How have you balanced managing a business with your ballet careers?

EH: It hasn’t been easy. There were times where I’d be coming off from Act II Swan Lake, sewing pointe shoes and answering emails before going back on for Act IV!

JK: And then coming home and icing your feet while editing photos.

EH: [Laughs.] You definitely have to learn how to manage time without burning out.

What’s it like to build and market a brand?

EH: I’ve always loved taking photos and videos—I also have a YouTube channel—so it was a natural transition for me to take on Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

JK: Emily has good taste. She keeps up with the trends and then makes her own little potion to offer up.

Any advice for dancers considering building a business or making a career transition?

JK: Keep an open mind. Feed your curiosity, and that will lead you to the discovery of new interests.

EH: Be curious, dip your toes in a few different things, and find something you’re passionate about.