Gelsey Kirkland

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Gelsey Kirkland (born December 29, 1952) is an American ballerina. Kirkland joined the New York City Ballet in 1968 at age fifteen, at the invitation of George Balanchine. She 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 Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Antony Tudor including Balanchine's revival of The Firebird, Robbins' Goldberg Variations, and Tudor's The Leaves are Fading.

She is perhaps most famous to the general public for dancing the role of "Clara" in Baryshnikov's 1977 televised production of The Nutcracker. She left the American Ballet Theatre in 1984.


In 1986, Kirkland, along with her then husband Greg Lawrence, published Dancing On My Grave, an explosive memoir chronicling her artistic transformation from George Balanchine's "baby ballerina" to one of the most acclaimed ballerinas in her generation. The book described in startling detail her struggles with her domestic family problems, anorexia, bulimia, drug addiction, her quest for artistic perfection, and her complicated love affairs with ballet superstar Mikhail Baryshnikov and numerous other men, most of whom she encountered in the ballet world.

Her second autobiography, published in 1990, titled The Shape Of Love, dealt with her move to England to dance with the Royal Ballet, her attempts to get a fresh start with her first husband, and her return to American Ballet Theatre with a clean slate and a renewed outlook on life.

After these two intensely graphic autobiographies, she and her husband/co-writer collaborated on one more book—a children's book called "The Little Ballerina and Her Dancing Horse" in 1993.


She currently lives in New York, with her second husband, danseur, choreographer and teacher Michael Chernov, who was also with ABT. In 2006, she was awarded the Dance Magazine Award. They used to live in Australia.[citation needed]

She has recently choreographed (with Chernov and ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie) a new production of Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty, in which, after a more than twenty years absence from the stage, she danced the role of "Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy". In 2010, Ms. Kirkland and Mr Chernov established the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet (GKACB), where they serve as co-Artistic Directors.[1] The Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet is now accompanied by the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet company. The Ballet company presents classical ballets in New York City.[citation needed]

Balanchine re-choreographed his version of Stravinsky's The Firebird specifically for her.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Kirkland was born December 29, 1952, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.[citation needed] Her father, Jack Kirkland, was a playwright who penned the Broadway adaptations of Tobacco Road and Tortilla Flat.[3][better source needed] Her older sister, Johnna, also studied at the School of American Ballet and danced with the New York City Ballet but was fired from the company for allegedly using drugs.[4]

Kirkland was featured on May 1, 1978 cover of Time.[5]


  1. ^ faculty, GKACB
  2. ^ Paul Gray (May 1, 1978). "Dance: U.S. Ballet Soars". Time. Retrieved June 25, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Jack Kirkland". IBDB. 
  4. ^ Paul Gray (May 1, 1978). "Dance: U.S. Ballet Soars". Time. 
  5. ^ "Cover". Time. May 1, 1978. 

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