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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Books: Autobiographies of Dancers

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Actually of the two books Kirkland has written about her dancing career I much prefer the 2nd one which is called The Shape of Love.


It mostly focuses on her trying to get back into shape in order to dance Romeo and Juliet and The Sleeping Beauty with The Royal Ballet. How she prepares and struggles to maintain her idea of excellence for these two ballets and coaching a young dancer for Giselle, are more interesting to me than her previous book with it's emphasis on love affairs, drug habits, etc.

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Guest tempusfugit

Amen, Farrell Fan and perky!

Who among us has not acted stupidly and unwisely, sometimes suffering the consequences for years? Kent certainly should not be penalized for her admirable candor: it is only her divine artistry onstage that occasions such uncharitable remarks towards the all-too-human rest of her life. While I couldn't agree more that she should have whacked Stern once and for all, :innocent: , jail simply WOULDN'T have showcased her talents in the same way. (Remember, this was before "Chicago"....)

Does anyone recall one of the rare moments in Kirkland's first book where she shows compassion and wisdom towards Balanchine? {"I am sorry that Mr. B is gone. I have the feeling that we might be able to talk now. His disciples can defend him, but they cannot answer my questions with his inimitable voice...."} That was also Kirkland, and I think that is closer to the ballerina who wanted to give so much, the ballerina irreplaceable in our memories.

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Well, I was thinking a nice firm tap with the mallet, nothing fatal.  In any case, I feel certain that after hearing the whole story, no jury could possibly convict. :innocent:

The most frustrating thing is Stern's relatively recent social and professional resurrection. I vote for the mallet -- her children would have profited from the escalated values of his existing original photos and the jury acquittal.

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He's a good photographer. I'll give him that. I love his pictures of Kent, a number of which are reproduced in her book (the woman looks stunning even while heavily pregnant, drat her). And his shot of Villella and Kent in "Bugaku" is almost iconic. Let's hope his family benefit from said resurrection.

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His picture of Villella and Kent in Bugaku is one of my all time favorite ballet pictures. It has such a subtle and erotic look to it, that a poster of it hangs in my husbands and my bedroom. Hopefully his character has changed enough through the years that he regrets many of his actions toward Allegra and his children.

However, at the time of his most awful behaviour towards her she should have slipped one of her pointe shoes in front of him and hoped that he would trip on the loose ribbons and fall in front of a speeding bus. :wink:

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Re Kirkland, I still have the "Time" magazine cover article from the late 1970s in which it was noted that she and her sister would cry (not for joy) when the other would do well on stage. I remember being particularly struck by that more than anything else in the entire article. It speaks volumes about one's mental state, as well as their home environment. Compare that, for instance, to the relationship between skater Michelle Kwan and her sister, Karen, also a skater, wherein the latter is always there for her sister and cries empathetic tears after performances.

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Guest tempusfugit

It was, however, great when Kent made Stern breakfast in bed, brought it to him, heard him say "where's my orange juice?"... she then brought a glass of orange juice and threw it in his face! Yes!

I must admit the Bugaku photo is a work of art...

Funny Face, two things-- you are right about the Kirklands' horrific home life, which GK details in Dancing on My Grave, and about her mental state. She has so often been a whipping girl, in some ways deservedly, but she was not ONLY a neurotic, solipsistic, drug-addicted brat. Dancing as exquisite as hers (at its best)

stems from the generosity of an artist.

And on a completely different thread, literally-- I realize this is in the wrong place and apologize in advance to the Powers that BE :) -- FF, I saw the thread in Books where you were mentioning Rumer Godden and think that thread may be more or less defunct, being almost two weeks old, so wanted to tell you here that she and her sister have a marvelous memoir of their childhood years in India called Two under the Indian Sun. if you have not read it I most highly recommend it. lapidary, profound, crystalline, I could go on and on.

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Two weeks old? Defunct? We have people who will go back four YEARS to revive a thread without batting an eyelash!

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  • 3 months later...
Guest SophieSapphire

I have yet to read it, but there is an autobiography (could be biography though..) of Fanny Cerrito called The Life of a Romantic. I have been unable to find it at our library, but I am very interested in reading it. I'm fascinated about the life of a ballerina at a time when dancer's were superstars. (Thus leading to Pas de Quatre!)

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  • 3 months later...

I have read Holding on to the Air, A Winter Season, and the Chan Hon Goh biography. All were excellent, but Farrell's book was by far my favorite. There is not a lot of talk about current dancers here, but does DArci Kistler have an autobiography? Or Suki schorer?

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  • 3 weeks later...

When I was younger (and even now, actually), I really enjoy(ed) Cynthia Gregory's autobiography; "Cynthia Gregory Dances Swan Lake". It is a picture book and very easy read, but she gives background information about her childhood leading all the way up to before going onstage and afterwards. Another autobiography, which I know has been mentioned many times is Gelsey Kirkland's "Dancing on my Grave".

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  • 5 months later...
Guest sarabesque

Can anyone suggest some good autobiographies of ballerinas? I've already read Gelsey Kirkland's and I have Maria Tallchief's and Allegra Kent's. Actually what I'd like is one from a non-Balanchine dancer.


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