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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Books: Gelsey Kirkland

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Once a Dancer

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  • Mel Johnson


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"Once a Dancer"....

"I, Maya Plisetskaya" is also interesting if you can handle how much she skips around/not much chronological order. I loved her humor and frankness about Soviet life.

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Margot Fonteyn: A Life by Meredith Daneman


There is a lot of WWII history in here from the dancers' perspective as well as Ms. Fonteyn's life. I loved this book and learned a lot about Margot Fonteyn and enough about Nureyev to make me find a book or two on him. But this book is my fav.

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  • 1 month later...

I just want to add my 2 cents about Ms. K's two books. I own the second, and will not purchase the first. I read Dancing on My Grave 20 years ago along with a handful of girlfriends from my ballet school. We were young and impressionable, and somehow mistook Gelsey's drug use and eating disorders as the route to achieving her gifts of artistry. I'm the only one of my friends who is still dancing. I lost several to drugs. All of us developed eating disorders, which for myself were extremely difficult to overcome.


I stock my personal studio's library with volumes and volumes on dance for my students to learn from. I will not include Dancing on My Grave. Shape of Love is wonderful, and I have recommended it to a number of my more mature students. But I would never want my students to misguidedly fall into the pit that I think the first book opens. Teens sometimes think tragedy and risk are glamorous. I feel for Ms. K, especially as I know she has tried to apologize for some of the first book's content. Maturity comes with a price. Hindsight probably haunts her.

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  • 8 years later...

I know this is a very old thread. I'm re-reading this book because it was the first one I ever read about ballet. One question:


Is she 5ft1 (stated online) or 5ft4 (states about herself on page 60). That's a big difference, which is it?? Just curious!

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I'm 5'5" and she is a good several inches shorter than me. I would guess 5'1" or 5'2" at most. She is a tiny little thing, even now.

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Let's factor age in: she was very likely 5'4" at her prime..........

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Victoria Leigh

It happens....I used to be about 3" taller. :giveup:

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