Comparing Gelsey Kirkland's Autobiography, Dancing On My Grave

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Gelsey Kirkland Gelsey Kirkland was born to Jack and Nancy Kirkland in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1952. Her father, Jack was a playwright and an alcoholic, and her mother Nancy, was an actress. Having two parents who were so involved with theater, some say that Kirkland was destined for theater. In her autobiography, Dancing on my Grave, Kirkland says that she was “not born a ballerina. I did not emerge from the womb on pointe, nor did I wear a tutu instead of diapers.” However, one could argue otherwise when witnessing the amazing style and grace of this beautiful ballerina. It was as though she was specifically engineered to be a dancer, although Kirkland was not always like this. When her father put her and her sister Johnna into ballet…show more content…
One day during the barre exercises, Balanchine stopped the class and approached Kirkland. Balanchine pointed to her upper chest, thumped on her sternum and down her rib cage and said “Must see the bones.” Balanchine continued to give Kirkland his advice, constantly telling her to “eat nothing.” At that time, Kirkland was five feet and four inches tall, and weighed a mere one hundred pounds. Kirkland was already underweight for her age and height, but at sixteen years old, she began a “diet” which got her down to 92 pounds by the end of that season. For many years she kept this weight off by eating only an apple and a spoonful of cottage cheese a day. Soon, Kirkland became a favorite of Balanchine who went on to choreograph a production of his 1949 Firebird for her. Balanchine became sort of like a father figure to her, but when he belittled her ballet idols such as Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn they had a falling out and quit speaking. In 1970, Kirkland was promoted to soloist and then principal dancer in 1972. While in the New York City Ballet she performed a variety of leading roles in their repertory, including Concerto Barocco, The Cage, Irish Fantasy, Symphony in C, La Source, Theme and Variations, Tarantella, Harlequinade, The Nutcracker and Dances at a Gathering. In 1974, Kirkland was asked by Mikhail Baryshnikov to join him as a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater (ABT). They danced many roles together: Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, and Baryshnikov's own choreographed interpretation of The Nutcracker with himself in the title role. However, when asked to dance the role of Clara, Gelsey at first refused, and Marianna Tcherkassky ended up dancing the role in the Washington D.C. premiere of the production, but Kirkland finally did the role afterwards,

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