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Gelsey II


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#1 salzberg

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Posted 18 April 1999 - 03:58 PM

I'm finally getting around to reading "Dancing on My Grave" and just today read the section where she describes getting injured when Jerry Robbins insisted that John Clifford put her down at a 90 degree angle when she was supposed to slide to the side.

So. . . .

Question: was the injury Robbins' fault ("Ye canna change the laws of physics, Cap'n!")? . . .Or was this just another case of Kirkland's blaming everyone else for her misfortunes?

[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited May 06, 1999).]

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 18 April 1999 - 04:03 PM

Without knowing any of the facts of the matter, I'd say it's Gelsey blaming everyone else. But there was this passage in Joe Mazo's book ("Dance is a Contact Sport") -- think I remember this right -- where Robbins had John Clifford slide her along with her leg extended and things did not go well. So maybe that's confirmation of a sorts. (Couldn't find the passage again; Kirkland, Gelsey, leg slide, did not make it into the index)

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#3 Manhattnik

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Posted 06 May 1999 - 07:46 AM

I have enjoyed reading these Gelsey threads. I really have to go out and read her books one of these days. I remember seeing her a great deal with ABT back in the seventies and eighties, and she turned in some of the most amazing performances I've ever seen. I wrote about her La Sylphide in the "great performances" section here; I doubt I'll ever see it done better.

It's a shame there's no video record of Gelsey at her peak. The Nutcraker video, with Baryshnikov, was made when she had gone through one of her bouts of losing too much weight, and she wasn't anywhere near her best. As far as her mad scene, there were times it seemed like she wasn't acting at all, sadly.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 06 May 1999 - 10:48 AM

I share your comment about lack of good videos of Kirkland. There is the Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap, though. Isn't that in commercial release? Or was that only if you taped it? There is a "Theme and Variations" from Live from Lincoln Center, but not in commercial release.

Kirkland's was the the second Sylph that I saw (the first was Gregory, at her tallest and most clunky) and she's still my favorite ABT sylph. But then I went to Denmark and saw Lis Jeppesen.

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#5 Natalia

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Posted 06 May 1999 - 12:19 PM

While on the subject of Gelsey videos, there's also the early-1980s PBS "Gala of the Stars" at Carnegie Hall, in which Gelsey danced Fokine's DYING SWAN to the accompaniment of the great cellist Rostropovich. We have since learned that Gelsey was stoned during that particular performance, which explains the odd nuances, etc.

There is also the fascinating interview of Gelsey that aired ca. 1987 on the CBS news show 60 MINUTES. This includes footage of Gelsey nearly passing out backstage during a performance of OTHER DANCES with Patrick Bissell, plus some nice segments of rehearsals for SLEEPING BEAUTY in London. Neither show is available commercially but was taped off-the-air by many of us. Just fyi. - Jeannie

#6 dirac

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Posted 06 May 1999 - 03:23 PM

In re: the Kirkland/Robbins/Clifford incident, I read both the Kirkland and Mazo accounts and it seemed to me that for once I'd have to side with Kirkland. Mazo includes the injury, but not the back-and-forth between Kirkland and Robbins that she says preceded it, and from the general tone of his book, which is tactful and evenhanded to a fault, I think that just out of political considerations he would have omitted the passage, an unpleasant one. Kirkland is a melodramatic and exaggerated writer, but unless she's a pathological liar also I don't think she made that one up.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 06 May 1999 - 05:32 PM

Thanks for the video info, Jeannie. I had that one once and somehow managed to lose it! Or at least, it's buried at the bottom of a pile.

I had an interesting experience once, when teaching a "dance appreciation course." I showed them Pavlova, Plisetskaya, and Kirkland. Of course, I wanted them to like Pavlova best -- or at least, not to laugh. And I thought they'd like Kirkland best, because she was the most contemporary and was so young. But the one they ADORED was Plisetskaya. Even the baseball boys wanted to see it again.

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#8 pasdechat

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Posted 07 May 1999 - 08:44 AM

I saw the video of Kirkland with Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap on sale at Bigstar.com or at least it was listed.

#9 Paul W

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Posted 18 May 1999 - 06:48 PM

I bought the Baryshnikov at Wolftrap video (available by mail order or over internet) and it is a far better presentation of Misha than of Gelsey. I have never seen her dance except for the video; pas de deux from Coppelia and Don Quixote. Viewing this video made me feel very distressed for her. She appeared much too thin, and was not attractive to look at. Posted Image Her balance on pointe was very shaky. This video may be worth it for Baryshnikov, but Gelsey's part in it is unfortunate. A frame containing an apology of sorts from her is presented at the end of the video. This reaction from one who knows nada of her.

#10 dirac

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Posted 19 May 1999 - 12:26 PM

Your remarks point up one of the saddest aspects of a dancer's career. So little can be preserved for posterity, and often what is preserved is incomplete or misleading. I've always hoped that some material from Kirkland's NYCB career would turn up somewhere, but haven't seen anything.

#11 Guest_kitty_*

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Posted 22 May 1999 - 01:12 PM

I personally think that Gelsey Kirkland was a beautiful dancer and I enjoyed her book "Dancing on my grave" very much. I definately admit that there was some sad times in her career but she is still one of my all time favorite dancers.


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