SOUSA KID

Does Gelsey Kirkland still dance?

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I really enjoy Gelsey Kirkland's dancing. Does she still dance ballet? (SOUSA KID)

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No, Gelsey Kirkland is long retired. However, she does teach.

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Gelsey Kirkland lives in Australia were she teaches and Coaches. She periodically has returned to the States were she has taught at ABT and Broadway Dance Center. I would love to see her move back to the States to take on a more active role with a professional company maybe as an Artistic Director or Ballet Mistress. I rank her as one of the finest ballerinas in which this country has ever produced.

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I think it would be great if she would come out with some instructional coaching DVD's. I bet they would fly off of the shelf! I've always wished that there were more performance videos of her available. :)

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I read in Time Out a few weeks ago that Kirkland was coaching some upcoming production in New York-- does anyone know what it is?

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Sleeping Beauty at ABT. I *think* it's MacKenzie's (new) production with Kirkland coaching.

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Since Aurora was not one of Kirkland's great roles during her years at ABT, I hope her services are used as well for some of those ballets in which she absolutely triumphed -- specifically, Giselle and LaSylphide (if there's a LaSylphide in ABT's near future :yahoo: ) and the Tudor rep.

In Dancing on My Grave, however, she writes of new insights gained when she danced Beauty with the Royal Ballet. New York audiences may have been deprived of seeing what her Aurora eventually became.

As I've written elsewhere on this board, she was -- for me, at any rate -- an extraordinarily effective teacher even early in her teaching career. I expect that her work with ABT's dancers will yield easily discernible results. :)

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My memory is that Kirkland only danced Aurora once with ABT in New York. I remember a review by David Vaugn that said that in her 'present condition' (or some very similar phrase) she was not up to all the demands of the role but that the vision scene was "exquisite." When Baryshnikov directed ABT, he cast her in the Sleeping Beauty Act III pas de deux, programmed as an excerpt.

I missed reviews of the performances she gave in London, but read a John Percival review of another dancer that compared the dancer unfavorably to Kirkland, noting that Kirkland was able to tell a story through the choreography that progressed throughout the ballet. But I don't think at that point (very late in her dancing career) her technical prowess compared to what it had been at her height.

The what-ifs of Kirkland's career are so excruciatingly painful to me that I try to suppress them, but I'm inclined to think that had her health and spirit held together for the full career one wishes she had had, she would have developed an unforgetable Aurora.

I do strongly agree with Carbro that it would be great if Kirkland were to work with dancers on roles that she did have a chance to develop--Giselle, Leaves are Fading--which Tudor created on her-- and others. (Perhaps Raymonda too?? A Kirkland-Nureyev Raymonda received an absolute rave--a you-had-to-be-there-to-believe-it-rave--from Clive Barnes.)

I should add that I don't consider reviews to be gospel, but I saw enough of Kirkland's dancing myself to believe the rave reviews when I read them.

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I missed reviews of the performances she gave in London, but read a John Percival review of another dancer that compared the dancer unfavorably to Kirkland, noting that Kirkland was able to tell a story through the choreography that progressed throughout the ballet. But I don't think at that point (very late in her dancing career) her technical prowess compared to what it had been at her height.

My recollection, which could be wrong, was that she received great reviews. Even if that weren't the case, I'm sure she'll have much of value to pass on to her pupils.

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I'm not given to superlatives generally, but I saw her Aurora in London and it was really transcendent. One of the most beautiful performances of any ballet I have ever seen.

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Mme. Hermine -- From what I saw of Kirkland throughout her career, I can well believe she danced a transcendent Aurora in London. If you have the time (and inclination) to discuss your memories of it...well, that would be lovely.

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It was relatively late in her career, but remember, she was only about 34 years old! :)

It's been 20 years now (!), that's incredible. Well you have to understand it was a kind of occasion. It seemed like everyone was there. Nureyev and Makarova were there; everywhere you looked there was someone else well known. I lived not far from Covent Garden and I had a lot of people asking me to get tickets for them. When I got into one of the two ticket lines (don't know if they have two lines anymore but they did then), I remember a man in the next line getting to the window and announcing to the ticket seller, "I'll have two tickets for (whatever night it was), IF you think she will be there", which I found rather amazing, but then some people are just that way. There had been absolutely no "talk" about any difficulties with her; a Royal Ballet corps member I knew told me that she was quite pleasant and worked very hard.

I had a Stalls Circle seat. I think John Percival (?) wrote later that one of the most amazing things to see was the large numbers of ballet students in the audience, "eyes out on stalks to catch everything", as I think he put it, and indeed there were. The whole company was wonderful, though I have to confess I don't recall who did what other than the 3 principals, don't even remember the Carabosse. Stephen Jeffries was the Prince and Rashna Homji the Lilac Fairy. Gelsey was wonderful from the very first minute to the very end. Technically she was sure and impressive but it wasn't just a performance that was beautifully danced, it was beautifully acted. When she made her first entrance there was such incredible anticipation, certainly because of the occasion, as I said, but you really had to believe that this was an innocent young princess, and her maturing and awakening were just as natural as could be. Like I said, I've never seen such a performance.

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Thank you, Mme. Hermine.

What I really want now is a slow and thorough tour through your memory.

I was in London in 1987 and saw Merrill Ashley's (not unexpectedly) athletic Aurora with Sadlers Wells -- now BRB. During the interval I overheard a woman remark to her companion, "She's not at all like Gelsey Kirkland!" :)

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I'll add my thanks Mme. Hermine--let's hope at least a little of that can be passed along to ABT's dancers...

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The Times archive has a review but of course one must pay to get the full text. However it gives you a phrase or two at the beginning, and this is what it gave:

At last, an opportunity to see how the Royal Ballet's ballerinas used to dance The Sleeping Beauty. To find a comparison within the company for Gelsey Kirkland's performance at Covent Garden last night, you have to go back to the days of Fonteyn....

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Gelsey was at several performances of ABT at City Center this past month (Oct.2006). She sat several rows in front of me at two performances I attended, and once I actually met her in the lobby of a nearby hotel--I was dying to say hello, but didn't want to intrude. Some have suggested she was at City Center perhaps to (re-)view the dancers prior to casting Sleeping Beauty? I wonder how much her opinion counted with Kevin McKenzie? There are still some TBA's listed on ABT's website, and I do know one dancer who was interested and still waiting to see if ABT management agreed.

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It’s just tremendous that the ABT dancers will have the benefit of Gelsey’s coaching this year for Sleeping Beauty. I recall many years ago, when she was just cutting her teeth as a teacher at David Howard’s old studio on West 61st Street. I took as many of her guest classes as possible, and to this day remember so many of her concepts, simply because of the unique and passionate way in which she presented them. Her emphasis on the “arc of the energy” in a grand battement; arms low, body high; opening up the face to the light - all common concepts, but articulated with such passion and insight into why these things are important to the overall. Gelsey was not good at time management in those days, and oh my, if she got stuck (enthralled, obsessed) communicating ronde jambe en l’air or developee, it could be excruciating. She would walk up to a student, lightly touch him or her on the arm, and plead with the student to try harder. Gelsey’s pleading to try harder is an experience in itself. She didn’t just inspire you to work hard; she inspired you to suicide. Obviously, she has so much to give as a teacher and coach. It might be her best performance yet.

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It's been 20 years now (!), that's incredible. Well you have to understand it was a kind of occasion. It seemed like everyone was there. Nureyev and Makarova were there; everywhere you looked there was someone else well known. I lived not far from Covent Garden and I had a lot of people asking me to get tickets for them. When I got into one of the two ticket lines (don't know if they have two lines anymore but they did then), I remember a man in the next line getting to the window and announcing to the ticket seller, "I'll have two tickets for (whatever night it was), IF you think she will be there", which I found rather amazing, but then some people are just that way. There had been absolutely no "talk" about any difficulties with her; a Royal Ballet corps member I knew told me that she was quite pleasant and worked very hard.

I had a Stalls Circle seat. I think John Percival (?) wrote later that one of the most amazing things to see was the large numbers of ballet students in the audience, "eyes out on stalks to catch everything", as I think he put it, and indeed there were. The whole company was wonderful, though I have to confess I don't recall who did what other than the 3 principals, don't even remember the Carabosse. Stephen Jeffries was the Prince and Rashna Homji the Lilac Fairy. Gelsey was wonderful from the very first minute to the very end. Technically she was sure and impressive but it wasn't just a performance that was beautifully danced, it was beautifully acted. When she made her first entrance there was such incredible anticipation, certainly because of the occasion, as I said, but you really had to believe that this was an innocent young princess, and her maturing and awakening were just as natural as could be. Like I said, I've never seen such a performance.

From Jeffery Taylor's review today of Black Swan:

Happily Aronofsky avoids the cheap option of glamorising Nina’s descent into madness. However, the film’s concept could have been based on the life of American dancer Gelsey Kirkland. Gelsey was a supremely gifted artist whose career was beset by problems with eating, alcohol and drugs, graphically outlined in her autobiography Dancing On My Grave.

I saw her dance The Sleeping Beauty with London’s Royal Ballet and I seethed with anger at the parody of a performance on the Royal Opera House stage. Self-inflicted damage made her wobbly and stick-thin and she merely inspired in me despair at the contempt in which she clearly held the art form I love.

:dry:

I really really really really really disagree. Really. So did John Percival (I think) whose review began:

At last, an opportunity to see how the Royal Ballet's ballerinas used to dance The Sleeping Beauty. To find a comparison within the company for Gelsey Kirkland's performance at Covent Garden last night, you have to go back to the days of Fonteyn....

As I quoted four years ago.

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"Contempt in which she held the art form"--There are many things one could say about Kirkland, some of which I would agree with and some of which I would disagree with, but from her performances (those great and those troubled) and her writings, one can tell that she held and holds the art form up to a transcendent standard which can scarcely be achieved. (In fact, given what one can infer of her character, that may have been part of her difficulty). And her obsessiveness in rehearsal, which has been criticized, hardly suggests contempt. Nor does her decision to found a ballet academy and reports of her success (some in this thread) as coach and teacher.

That she was self-destructive and that this led to weak and cancelled performances, that she had the problems of an addict (though not, as far as is known, at the time of her performances for the Royal), that she has been conflicted about many aspects of the profession qua profession, even that it's likely that she sometimes deceived herself (few addicts don't)--yes, that's part of the record. But I find this particular comment to be outrageous and, to me, it is deeply offensive--whatever one's opinion of a particular performance.

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I really wouldn't be overly bothered by what Taylor writes, or wrote, he's a rather sanctimonious silly man who writes for the Express, one of the most reactionary newspapers in the UK. He also contributes to RoyalBallet.co.uk

What I dare say that was about, was that Dancing on my Grave came out at the same time as her SB performances and was the book everyone was talking about and Taylor may have felt his fragile sensibilities so traumatised that he felt honourbound to rubbish a series of performances which every other critic thought transcendent.

I'd also put her performances in historical context, this was 1986, the RB was in a deep deep mess at this point, Guillem was another couple of years away, Ferri had left, Brind was imploding it was not a well company at that point, for Taylor to have been so pompous about the "sanctity" of ballet, when was on stage was pretty grim is bathetic.

I quite like his deeply precious wording, like a maiden aunt who's about to suffer a conniption.

Ashton loved her performances of SB, saying "no one had done what she did with that ballet in years. Ashton or Taylor? I know whose opinion I'd credit with weight.

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I quite like his deeply precious wording, like a maiden aunt who's about to suffer a conniption.

lol, it also had an echo of Edward VIII, didn't he say that business on the radio? Don't think that "the woman I love" didn't go over a lot better here in the U.S., where it was just like a bad movie of the period.

Ashton loved her performances of SB, saying "no one had done what she did with that ballet in years. Ashton or Taylor? I know whose opinion I'd credit with weight.

Glad you put that, I hadn't known it.

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Ashton loved her performances of SB

As did Makarova who was also in the audience.

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I know, I couldn't help giggling to see Nureyev chatting up Makarova in the aisles! :lol:

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Gelsey’s pleading to try harder is an experience in itself. She didn’t just inspire you to work hard; she inspired you to suicide.

:rofl:

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