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Gelsey Kirkland

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There are so many performances that stick in my mind. The first Giselle I ever saw, at the old Uris, now Gerwshin Theater, in January of 1976, with Baryshnikov, Makarova and van Hamel (the audience sang "Happy Birthday" to Misha afterwards). I got there at the last minute, and didn't read the program note. I remember thinking to myself at the end of the first act, "She's dead. NOW what?"

Or there's the electrifying and very competitive Giselle that Peter Schaufuss and Makarova danced together in 1977 with ABT, when NYCB was on strike. It may not have been the most refined performance ever, but the second act turned into one of the most stunning virtuoso competitions I've ever seen. It wasn't until years later I realized that Schaufuss had borrowed his solo from Vasiliev. But I'll always be impressed by anyone who can do a big double tour with one leg in passe, land in arabesque, then continue seamlessly into a slow pirouette in said arabesque. Then do it all over again.

Or just about anything Suzanne Farrell danced, especially the many times she made me feel I was walking on air myself watching her in Chaconne, or spying on an intensely private moment in Der Rosenkavalier section of Vienna Waltzes.

However, if I have to pick just one performance, I'd have to say, without reservation, it was the La Sylphide that Gelsey Kirkland and George de la Pena danced at the Met in June of 1978 (I think it was June). It was a Saturday, and Carla Fracci's lovely if somewhat mannered performance with Fernando Bujones was still fresh in my mind. How could anyone possibly be a better sylph than Fracci, I asked myself. I soon found out.

You never knew what you'd get when the curtain rose on Kirkland, but when she wasn't being bonkers, or abusing herself in some manner, she could be beyond superlatives, and certainly hard to describe without hyperbole.

At this performance she took her technique and artistry so far beyond the normal, charted waters one expects, even from brilliant dancers like those cited above, I can only call it artless. I remember, in particular, her grande jetes across the front of the stage at the end of the big reel in the first act. She seemed barely to touch the floor at all, an ethereal vision propelled by some invisible wind.

This was a time when you'd often hear the audiences at ABT gasp in seeming unison at the astonishing technical feats of Baryshnikov or Bujones. I don't recall any female ballerina ever eliciting such a reaction -- except for Kirkland, that Saturday evening twenty years ago.

I'll also never forget the chill that ran down my spine. Kirkland was as close to a supernatural being, for those moments, as I've ever seen, or, for that matter, wish to see.

Eric Taub

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Oh, Jane, I envy you. She did one Aurora in New York when she was ill, and at her lowest weight, and a friend who went told me it was the bravest performance he'd ever seen in his (long balletgoing) life because she refused to cheat and did every step, though it was hard to watch, because of the condition she was in.

I didn't know she had done so many in London. With whom did she dance and how was she received?


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She danced with Stephen Jefferies - lucky her: he was a wonderfully sympathetic partner. I remember standing ovations, quite rare in London, going on well after the house lights came up. There were people who found her disappointing, but heaven only knows what they were looking for - blood, I shouldn't wonder.

Incidentally an e-mail gremlin crept in - when I said 'in 4th' I should have added 'position' - she only did 2 Auroras!

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I feel very sad that I never had the chance to see Gelsey Kirkland dance on stage. I say that not only because of everything I read about her but also because a friend of mine once saw her... At the time, that friend was a member of l'École Supérieure de Danse du Québec (which is the school of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in Montréal)and the students were asked to dance as the corps de ballet in an excerpt of Giselle which was being taped for television (I think it was Radio-Canada) as part of a documentary on Anna Pavlova (I think it was 1983). Maybe I should get my facts straight before I write... Anyway, in the final taping, Marianna Tcherkassky was Giselle, but my friend told me that Gelsey Kirkland was supposed to do the part (I don't know what happened), but they had at least one rehearsal with Kirkland and she said she was amazing. She said: "I was supposed to keep my eyes low and not look at her, but I could not keep my eyes off of her. She WAS Giselle. I had NEVER seen anything so beautiful. It was kind of a spiritual experience..."

I would also like to point out that I think those performances of Sleeping Beauty with the Royal Ballet and Stephen Jefferies are the ones, Gelsey Kirkland talk about in her second book: "The Shape of Love", and there are photos too.

If anyone knows about videotapes featuring Gelsey Kirkland, could you please let me know

about them and are they still available? I only have the tape with Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap in 1976 (Coppélia and Don Quichotte).

Thank you smile.gif

[This message has been edited by Margot (edited 11-20-98).]

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This summer I was lucky enough to attend a ballet summer program that Gelsey Kirkland as a guest teacher. She was amazing. She stressed head and arms and upper body even more than feet and turn out. I was very surprised. She was incredible to watch. She just had on a black t-shirt, black jeans and jazz tennis shoes and she could have gone on stage right then and still looked beautiful. Gelsey's class had a lot of character, folk dancing steps in it. Character gives you a better idea of how to use your head. She also was very picky on how to use your hands and arms. I love that stuff. To me the upper body is more lovely to watch when dancing than the legs. I can't wait until the audition for the summer program because she is going to come back next summer. I really want to go back.

Oh and one question. How do you get that little smiley face that some people put on their posts?


[This message has been edited by Hollyberry (edited 11-21-98).]

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Thanks for posting this, Hollyberry. It's good to know that Gelsey Kirkland is teaching. I think it would be all right to post the name of the summer program where she is teaching; some people reading this might want to know.

Instructions for using the smilies (which come with the program) are in the Frequently Asked Questions; go to the righthand top of the board, right under Post New Topic, or Post Reply, and click the faq button and smilie away.


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Guest kitsker

Hey! Hollyberry my real name is Maria .Iwas in level b at sbt and yes I do go to sbt during the year but this year i get taught by kit and also by the greatset teacher I have had in a while Irina Fedotova have you heard of her? She so great I have improved alot from her smile.gif Were do you dance at? Hope to hear from you soon

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