Friday, May 11, 2007

Dancing on My Grave

from the diary: “Wednesday 9/2/87

“Library really dead. I spent a lot of my desk time reading the autobio of Gelsey Kirkland.”

I have little interest in ballet. I like dance and I like to dance so I’m not indifferent to varieties of it in performance, and ballet would be one of those. I admire the athleticism of ballet dancers. But I find the costuming, especially those tutus, to be ugly. And I’ve never admired the en pointe tiptoeing. It looks painful. (OK, maybe as a kid I did try to tippytoe like that a few times, and -- ouch!) I guess I read Kirkland’s book because I’d heard it praised and because it was said to be bringing to light the hidden unpleasantness of the supposedly sublime, high culture artform. Who knows maybe it amused me that the title, Dancing on My Grave, was so similar to another book I’d read, Dance on My Grave. I must have learned all sorts of things about ballet that I didn’t know previously; but equally, I’m sure, I missed much, having so little familiarity with the subject. Frankly, the book bored me.

A bio of Gelsey Kirkland appears in the Ballet Encyclopedia. “In 1976 her complicated personal life caught up to her. She had been very concerned about her looks and undergone several plastic surgeries. She was also anorexic and addicted to cocaine. Finally she collapsed due to nervous exhaustion and a potassium deficiency and was forced to stop dancing. This kept her from appearing opposite Mikhail Baryshnikov in the movie The Turning Point.” The man she later married (“they helped each other out of their drug problems and depression”) also helped her write the book.

Before the breakdown Gelsey Kirkland was Mikhail Baryshnikov’s main dancing partner. “The partnership between Miss Kirkland and Mr. Baryshnikov was incredibly successful - they were the same size and had the same way of disguising difficulties on stage.”

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