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About Gelsey Kirkland


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 08 March 1999 - 01:23 AM

There have been quite a few posts since this board started about Gelsey Kirkland and I've been especially interested to see some of our youngest young dancer posters have listed her as their favorite dancer -- although they couldn't have seen her on stage. Is this based on the Nutcracker video? Have any of you seen the "Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap" video, because she's on that, too.

I saw Kirkland quite a lot in her ABT career, although, to my regret, I came to ballet too late to have seen her at New York City Ballet. I admired her dancing very much, especially "Giselle," "Theme and Variations," and "The Leaves are Fading." Arlene Croce once wrote about her technique that it was "porcelain-coated steel," and she was an amazing combination of fragility and strength.

I'd like to hear from you Kirkland fans, new or old, about what you've seen her in -- and especially from those who've taken her summer intensive at Southern Ballet Theatre; what's she like as a teacher, etc.

Thanks,

alexandra

#2 pdance

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Posted 08 March 1999 - 07:38 AM

Yes, alexandra, I'm one of those Kirkland lovers. Yes I did see her on the nutcracker video with Barishnikov. She was absolutely wonderful. She has such expression. By the way, this is a great thread!

#3 Kevin Ng

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Posted 08 March 1999 - 08:44 AM

I only saw Gelsey Kirkland twice, in Sleeping Beauty in November 1986 with the Royal Ballet partnered by Stephen Jefferies (now artistic director of Hong Kong Ballet). Her musicality was astounding, and her rubato phrasing in the Act 3 pas de deux was unusual yet exciting. I also remember her highly developed acting at that late stage of her career.

Kirkland was due to return the following summer to guest in Ashton's "The Dream" with Dowell, but pulled out because of injury. I never saw her again in London.

#4 pdance

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Posted 08 March 1999 - 03:47 PM

Hey! Same day, later time. I just received a letter from Southern Ballet Theatre saying that I was accepted into their program. I'm very excited that GELSEY KIRKLAND will be guest teaching there!! I have always dreamed to train with her, and now I have the opportunity! I do hope that I get to go!!!

[This message has been edited by pdance (edited 03-08-99).]

#5 Giannina

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Posted 08 March 1999 - 06:37 PM

Congratulations, pdance!

Kirkland was wonderful. She was one of the first ballerinas my husband ever saw and she was his favorite. Unfortunately we also saw her as her life was falling apart, and though the differences were obvious she remaimed something special. I never think of her without thinking of Patrick Bissell; he partnered Cynthia Harvey in the most beautiful "Giselle" I've seen. What a loss.

#6 Giannina

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Posted 08 March 1999 - 07:21 PM

Ooops; forgot to say which of Kirkland's performances I saw. I saw her initially in "La Sylphide" and lastly in "Giselle"; there were probably others in between but I don't remember them.

#7 dirac

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Posted 09 March 1999 - 12:19 AM

Many moons ago PBS aired Kirkland and Baryshnikov in Balanchine's Theme and Variations. (I believe it was his last performance before leaving ABT for NYCB.) I hear from time to time that it will appear on video, but have not seen it. Has anyone read either of Kirkland's two books recently? any opinions regarding same?

#8 Kevin Ng

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Posted 09 March 1999 - 02:15 AM

I only read Kirkland's first book "Dancing On My Grave". I thought that it was most unfair of her to blame all her personal problems on Balanchine as well as Baryshnikov. I didn't feel like buying her second book to read.

#9 pdance

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Posted 09 March 1999 - 07:19 AM

Does anyone know of any websites, e-mail addresses, or anything else on/for Kirkland? If so, please post them here or e-mail me at prima87@juno.com
Thanks!

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 09 March 1999 - 11:24 AM

I agree with every word Kevin wrote. Unfortunately, "Dancing on my Grave" remains the most popular (in terms of sales) of any dance biography, and I think that's a shame. Especially since so many teenagers read it. It's not a very accurate picture of ballet life, in many ways.

alexandra

#11 Dale

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Posted 10 March 1999 - 07:43 AM

Robert La Fosse's autobiography had an interesting chapter about working with Kirland. They danced La Sonnambula together and he noted that every little nuance had to planned before hand and rehersed 100 times. But that on stage, she performed it as if she was doing it for the first time. She had a strange genius. I imagine that she was one of those dancers Balanchine probably told, "Don't think. Do."

She was absolutely beautiful in many things but when she got so thin, it was hard to watch her. I read her biography and like others, I found it distasteful that she blamed others for her own actions. Allegra Kent's book was much better in this regard than Kirland's -- looking at her life unapologetically but with humor and without excuses. I'm afraid that when I think of Kirkland, I think of a person who destroyed a gift they had and then blamed everybody else when it was broken.

Dale

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[This message has been edited by Dale (edited 03-10-99).]

#12 Alexandra

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Posted 12 March 1999 - 10:46 PM

While I agree that Kirkland seems to blame everybody but herself, I have sympathy for her because she was such a great artist and so troubled. If she destroyed her gift, I think it was that she was trying too hard to be perfect and broke under that stress.

One thing about the book that's always troubled me is that some of the young people who read it will think they should inject collagen in their lips or have their foot broken to change the arch, or any of the other scary things she did or wanted to do. There should be a Parental Discretion warning on those pages!

Alexandra

#13 Lillian

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Posted 13 March 1999 - 11:34 AM

Interesting point Alexandra! I read Kirkland's book a year before I stopped dancing and it did indeed put some strange ideas into my mind about breaking my ankles and enhancing my lips. Kirkland had such a look of her own, I was always surprised she'd want to alter that. Pure insecurity I guess.
I thoroughly enjoyed her first book which I've now read close to a hundred times. I especially agreed with all the manipulation you go through as a dancer. The mirror issue is important as well. I think Baryshnikov betrayed her on many counts and is somewhat responsible for her breakdown. I'm sure none of you will agree with me on that one. Although I worship Baryshnikov as a dancer, I bet he is a bit of handful as a mere mortal.
I've only seen Kirkland dance on video, but I did see her in class. You can't even imagine how incredible she was. She did the center adage on demi-pointe! Everybody in that room was gawking and totally in awe. I prefer her to anyone, including Makarova.
She is also an elf of a person up close. She is absolutely beautiful - a fairy with a deep New York accented voice. I was in Freeds (pointe shoe store) in London trying on shoes next to her and I couldn't keep from staring.
I didn't enjoy her second book at all. Too preachy and detailed. I think her editor is a bit to blame. I'm surprised there aren't more videos available of her dancing. Her used pointe shoes are still the #1 requested of them all. Anybody have a pair up for sale?

#14 Alexandra

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Posted 13 March 1999 - 11:54 AM

No shoes, alas, but I would like to say that (surprise!) I DO agree with you about Baryshnikov. It's just the incessant "it's not my fault" that got me -- that, and the "vitamin pill" Balanchine supposedly slipped her, stuffed with drugs. From everything I've heard or read, drugs were anathema to Mr. B (which certainly makes sense, considering his age and background) and the idea of him starting a dancer on drugs is not credible.

None of that takes away from the beauty of her dancing. And I think she was one of those artists for whom the pressure of performing and of being perfect, of living up to her own ideal of being perfect, was too much (it's broken a lot of people). To give up performing must have been a terrible decision, but necessary for her survival.

Now, for something a little different -- there is another video. Did you catch her on "L.A. Law"? (Don't remember the date; I never watched that show and turned past it on the way to somewhere else, when I realized it was about dance and stopped and watched. Surreal.) Anyway, Kirkland played a ballerina suing her artistic director. (It was all his fault, of couse.) She got to testify, but she also got to dance. She's in the studio (his new ballet looks an awful lot like "Giselle") and she also dances at the end, over the titles. She was still a ballerina.

Alexandra

#15 Lillian

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Posted 13 March 1999 - 12:31 PM

I never watched LA law either but also caught that episode for some surreal reason!
It made me blush, especially the courtroom scene when it all seemed a little too real!
Notice in the dance scenes, she wasn't on pointe. I thought she looked awful! Those lips just jumped out at you.
I also saw the interesting profile of her on 60 minutes. Great clips from Giselle. Those ghostly arms! I would love to have seen her as Giselle. I heard her mad scene was incredible.
Does she still teach at ABT? I know she has in the past. I know so many dancers with great Gelsey Kirkland stories. She's a legend already. I get a real thrill running into an old picture of her. And her rehearsal clothes were great! She wore leg warmers over leg warmers over rubber pants and still looked emaciated. What a riot!
We'll probably never see anyone like her again. Is she the female Nijinsky?


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