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Gelsey Kirkland

(b. 1952)


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(b Bethlehem, Pa., 29 Dec. 1952)

US dancer. She studied at the School of American Ballet and joined New York City Ballet in 1968 where her extraordinary gifts led to her rapid promotion, as soloist in 1969 and principal in 1972. A dancer of rare speed, lightness, and strength, she was compared to a humming-bird by Balanchine who created his new production of Firebird for her in 1970, and in the same year Suite No. 3. Robbins created roles for her in The Goldberg Variations (1971), Scherzo fantastique (1972), and An Evening's Waltzes (1973) but she became dissatisfied with the lack of dramatic content in NYCB's repertory and left for American Ballet Theatre in 1974, often dancing with Baryshnikov and Nureyev. Here she created roles in Tudor's The Leaves are Fading and Neumeier's Hamlet: Connotations (both 1976) as well as dancing many of the classic ballerina roles. However, personal problems and illness frequently interrupted her career and she left the company for good in 1984. Though she guested to much acclaim with the Royal Ballet in 1980 and 1986 it was felt that she had not achieved her potential to become one of the truly great ballerinas of the century. Her own somewhat sensational account of her early life and career appeared in Dancing on my Grave: An Autobiography, written with her first husband, Greg Lawrence (New York, 1986), and its sequel, The Shape of Love (New York, 1990). After retiring from the stage she moved to Australia but has continued to coach in the US and in Europe and in 2007 returned to ABT to assist with the staging of its new production of Sleeping Beauty, in which she also made her debut as Carabosse.

Subjects: Dance.


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