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Books: Gelsey Kirkland

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Mel Johnson

This is less from the book and more from conversations with her at the time. When she was a teen, Gelsey was much more impressed (and somewhat mystified) by Kent. Her contemporaries were more admiring, or even somewhat jealous of Farrell, but Gelsey was firmly a Kent fan.

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Guest littlepiggy333

Oh okay Mel, that makes sense. I know that Allegra Kent was her main idol, but I do remember her talking about Balanchine using Farrell as an example and Gelsey trying to make herself look like her. I failed to find it when I looked, and I can't remember anything more specific than that. Oh yah, and wow, I seriously wish I had conversations with people who are going to be famous. That is very cool. :P It's amazing how true that six steps of separation thing seems at times....

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Rhapsody

Mel,

When you said "by the time Gelsey was 11 that she was headed up, fast..." did you mean it was obviously she would be a principal dancer some day, or that she was headed for the sad trainwreck?

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Mel Johnson

We knew that she was going to be very, very good at ballet.

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ashatNYU

littlepiggy333,

 

I'm in the middle of Dancing on my Grave right now and I think I found the portion you were thinking of regarding Suzanne Farrell. Kirkland talks about how she and her sister Johnna measured themselves against the "absolute standard of beauty" -- Farrell. She also talks about how she used Farrell as the her "model of flirtation" (or how a woman should flirt :-) while she played a coquette in A la Françaix. And there was a section about how she would actually clip her eyelashes to make her eyes appear more like Farrell's.

So, even though Kent was her idol, I definitely understand where you were coming from when you said that she was fixated on Farrell.

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littlegelsey

i love this book sooooooooooo much its an amazing story...it shows what she went through and it amazes me how she was always so upset w/ her performances. that happens to me a lot i get upset w/ my dancing and everyone else says it was great so i feel like she does in her book a lot. i cant believe people dont like the book. gelsey is like my idol even though she did have lots of problems she did manage to get over them. i dont think she was immature or whatever people say of course she had problems but its amazing how great of a dancer she was. it was so sad how she couldnt keep away from drugs and all the bad stuff and how she saw herself as a dancer and a person. someone said i reminded them of her (not because im a druggie :wink: ) and i think i see why becuase im a perfectionist and im really sensitive like her. i think the book is awesome!!!

~Sarah :D

oh yeh...this is kinda cool...in the book she is always talking about her friend ricky weiss...well i know him he directs a ballet company where i live and he is my moms friend and i have danced for him and stuff :clover:

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vagansmom

Hi Littlegelsey, I certainly agree about Biggelsey's :( dancing. It was amazing and it's such a tragedy that her mental fragility caused her to lose her career. She could've had a long performing life and we audiences who adored her dancing would've had such a gift all that time. When she descended into that dangerous behavior, she lost everything after all those years of dedication. Imagine how awful that must have been for someone so dedicated to her art?

 

I found the book terribly sad because I thought she was still in denial about many aspects of her history. She DID say that some of what she did was awful - I remember what she said about plastic surgery and about drugs - and I'm so glad she said that. But her anger, at the time of her writing, towards the medical community who treated her was disturbing.

 

It also bothered me that she thought she found her mental health when she met the man who would be her husband (whom she's no longer with). That worried me. I felt like she needed to heal herself first before getting involved. She had a tendency to idolize someone too much, then hate that person, Balanchine, for example, when he didn't live up to her idealized version. People are just people, with flaws as well as strengths but she held too high a standard. That kind of perfectionism is dangerous. So I was concerned when she latched onto her future husband and proclaimed him as the person who saved her. To me, that spelled danger. He wouldn't be able to live up to her ideal for too long a time.

 

I guess the best way for me to sum up my feelings about Kirkland as seen through that book is that even at the end, I feel she still thought of herself as a victim. I didn't think she was yet ready to write a book about her experiences. She needed more time to get past her anger.

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Guest silvery_stars

I read this book a few months ago. I feel bad for her mostly. It's interesting but it's clear that she had emotional problems. She had artistic differences with other people, but to her these differences seemed catastrophic. I read it as a thorough study of a personality shaped by extreme perfection and a cold father. Some people are just wired to be so fragile. I think if she had been born thirty years later, people would have been more aware of such things and helped her sooner.

 

I think the book had a happy ending, however. I can't fully comment because I want to read the sequel "The Shape of Love". I think she starts dancing again after her hiatus and recovers. You have to look at the whole thing in order to put the first book into context.

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vagansmom

Silvery_Stars, Welcome :) to Ballet Talk for Dancers and thank you for writing such a thoughtful first post! I hope it's one of many to come. :)

 

I liked everything you said, but especially want to thank you for this perceptive statement:

 

Some people are just wired to be so fragile. I think if she had been born thirty years later, people would have been more aware of such things and helped her sooner.

 

I'd like to invite you to head over to our "Welcome" board so you can tell us a little bit about yourself and be officially greeted! :thumbsup:

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Guest silvery_stars

Thanks! I am mostly done with The Shape of Love. It's interesting. There's less of a story, but she's much happier. She matures a lot, I think. I'm going to introduce myself at the Welcome board. I've been a busy bee lately and this kept getting stuck on the back burner!

 

 

 

Silvery_Stars, Welcome  :flowers: to Ballet Talk for Dancers and thank you for writing such a thoughtful first post! I hope it's one of many to come.  :yes:

 

I liked everything you said, but especially want to thank you for this perceptive statement:

 

Some people are just wired to be so fragile. I think if she had been born thirty years later, people would have been more aware of such things and helped her sooner.

 

I'd like to invite you to head over to our "Welcome" board so you can tell us a little bit about yourself and be officially greeted! :D

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cmtaka

It's interesting in the lastest Dance Magazine she talks about her career and takes a moment to offer an apology for every one she trashed in Dancing on my grave. I remember when I read the book when it first came out I had always been such a big fan. But I remember thinking if dance made her that unhappy why didn't she do something else. I agree with VagansMom that book was just a little too soon or maybe her first step towards healing. Her latest interview is very grounded and much different.

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mirabray

When I read the book, I remember thinking why she didn’t take more action in her relationships as well as dance. I view this book as a step for her healing, almost like a diary, her getting out the things, the hurt she experience. And she may have been willing to share some of things other dancers keep inside.

She did point out things like our culture was experiencing a equal percentage of drugs use at the time, not just in the dance world.

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Guest ballettomato
But I remember thinking if dance made her that unhappy why didn't she do something else.

 

I haven't read the book yet (it's terribly hard to find here in Germany), but what your statement made me think is that unfortunately people often do things that make them unhappy or hurt them.

Dance probably did not make her unhappy completely, but she rather liked to focus on the bad things in her autobiography. Sometimes one can be close to quitting and hating a beloved activity and then a tiny thing happens which causes you to change your mind about it.

And when you look back on your life, then sadly it is much easier to remember the bad things which we regret than looking back on all the good memories :shrug:

 

Random, but I highly recommend Margot Fonteyn's autobiography!

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dancinpants

I read Dancing on my Grave and I thought it was an amazing book, but yes, Gelsey Kirkland should have waited a few years to write the book. I find it odd that she could she could describe roles in ballet and talk deeply about ballet, yet not know how much money she was making and spending. I think it is a great book that everyone can learn from! :yes:

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lampwick

I had her autograph my copy of Dancing on My Grave after a class she gave at BDC. Lots of other women asked for an autograph as well. I remember thinking that she may be embarrased about the book. I felt kind of awkward about it, though of course she was gracious and accomodating to everyone.

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