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Gelsey Kirkland joined the New York City Ballet at age 15, becoming its youngest member. In 1984, she left the spotlight for several years due to physical and emotional issues.
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Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on December 29, 1952, Gelsey Kirkland joined the New York City Ballet at age 15, becoming its youngest member. At the age of 17, she danced the lead role, specially choreographed for her, in George Balanchine's new production of Firebird. Her talent inspired many choreographers.
In 1974, Kirkland joined the American Ballet Theatre as partner to Mikhail Baryshnikov. The two dancers reportedly became romantically linked for a time.
An ambitious perfectionist, however, Kirkland soon proved to be difficult to work with and, by 1984, left the ballet with severe physical and emotional problems. These she chronicled, along with scathing criticisms of Balanchine and the dance world, in the memoirs Dancing on My Grave (1986) and The Shape of Love (1990).
Considered a "pariah" in the New York ballet community, Kirkland danced her comeback with London's Royal Ballet, including a command performance before Queen Elizabeth in 1986. By 1992, she was back in New York, teaching at the American Ballet Theatre.
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