Gelsey Kirkland

Gelsey Kirkland Biography.com

Ballet Dancer(1952–)
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.

Synopsis

Gelsey Kirkland was born on December 29, 1952, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. At age 15, she joined the New York City Ballet as their youngest member. She danced the lead role, written specifically for her, at age 17 in Firebird. She joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1974, but left in 1984. She wrote several scathing books about the ballet world, such as the 1986 memoir, Dancing on My Grave.

Early Life and Career

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.

Controversy and Comeback

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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