Gelsey Kirkland

Gelsey Kirkland

Gelsey Kirkland (born December 29 1952, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) is an American ballet dancer.

She was reportedly inspired to dance by watching a performance of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. Fact|date=June 2007 Kirkland joined the New York City Ballet in 1968 at age fifteen after being invited by George Balanchine and was promoted to Soloist in 1969 and principal in 1972. She went on to create leading roles in many of the great twentieth century ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Antony Tudor. These include Balanchine's version of Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird", Robbins' Goldberg Variations, and Tudor's "Leaves are Fading".

She joined the American Ballet Theatre after meeting Mikhail Baryshnikov, who would become her perennial partner. She was practicing when she received a phone call from Baryshnikov's entourage asking her if she would like to dance with him and accepted. [,9171,919577,00.html] She is perhaps most famous to the general public for dancing the role of "Clara" in Baryshnikov's 1977 television production of "The Nutcracker". She left the ABT in 1984.


In 1986, Kirkland, with Greg Lawrence, published "Dancing on My Grave", a tell-all autobiography detailing her struggles with eating disorders and drug addiction. The book also sharply criticizes George Balanchine and speaks about many of her partnerships, both on stage and off, with some of the most famous dancers of the time, including Baryshnikov, Peter Martins, Ivan Nagy, Anthony Dowell, Patrick Bissell, Peter Schafuss, and Stephen Jeffries. Following "Dancing on My Grave", Kirkland and Lawrence published "The Shape of Love: The Story of 'Dancing on My Grave' Continues" in 1990, which focuses on Kirkland's return to the stage in 1986. She and her ex-husband collaborated on one more book, "Little Ballerina and Her Dancing Horse," for children in 1994.


Kirkland has since departed from the stage, but now coaches younger dancers. She currently lives in Australia with husband Michael Chernov, but periodically returns to the United States. In 2006, she was awarded the Dance Magazine Award.

She is currently a member of the guest faculty at the Broadway Dance Center in New York City, a guest artist at STEPS on Broadway, and has recently choreographed (with her husband, dramaturge Michael Chernov, and ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie) a new production of Tchaikovsky's "The Sleeping Beauty", in which, after a more than twenty year absence from the stage, she danced the role of "Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy".


* Baryshnikov called her "The best ballerina of her generation".
* She appeared as guest artist with the Royal Ballet 1980-86.
* She applied for the position of Artistic Director for a ballet company in Ireland, yet when she got the job, she wound up turning it down - in favor of teaching. Fact|date=June 2007
* Was on the May 1, 1978 cover of "Time".
* Edward Villella described her as having "steel-like legs that are doing the most fantastic technical feats while the upper body is soft and lovely as though nothing were going on underneath" in Time magazine.
* Has undergone various plastic surgery operations. She had silicone put in her lips, her earlobes shortened, a nose job and breasts enlarged. Facts|date=February 2007
* Balanchine rechoreographed his version of Stravinsky's "The Firebird" specifically for her. [,9171,919577-5,00.html]

Further reading

*Kirkland, Gelsey, and Greg Lawrence. "Dancing on My Grave". Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1986 (ISBN 0-385-19964-3).

*Kirkland, Gelsey, and Greg Lawrence. "The Shape of Love: The Story of Dancing on My Grave Continues". New York, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1990 (ISBN 0-385-24918-7).

External links

* [ The Ballerina Gallery - Gelsey Kirkland]
* [ Bdcync Faculty page]
* [ Steps on Broadway Faculty bio]

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