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I had to order this online to get a used copy. It's an account of the dancing life of Gelsey Kirkland, on the Prima Ballerinas of our time. She was Baryshnikov's dance partner, and also grew up under Balanchine's instruction. 
It's sad that she didn't get more famous... the famous dancers are men of course. Gelsey struggled to find a voice within Balanchine's and Barshynikov's company but she never really found it I think.
Then she got stupid and started doing a lot of cocaine. 
Oh and she of course struggled with anorexia.
She remarked on the infantilazation of dancers.

It was a rather depressing book.

 

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
tangofiction
Jun. 14th, 2008 09:57 am (UTC)
You mean Gelsey Kirkland, right? She climbed out of her personal hell, though, and went on to teach, and stage ballets -- she even performed Carabosse for the ABT in a production her husband staged in 2007. (Apparently it was crap, but that's not the point. :D) So it's not as depressing a story as it could be. Plus she moved to Australia, which immediately scores her some brownie points from me, since I'm an Aussie currently in (self-imposed) exile. :D

Re: all famous dancers being men -- I don't think that's true, you know. Pavlova? Fonteyn? Plisetskaya? I think on the whole, it's a fairly even split -- and in fact, ballet has a "for girls and gay guys only" image that is quite infuriating, and has the effect of turning many guys away from classical dance. But that's another rant. :D
ripresa
Jun. 14th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
That's true.. Fonteyn is probably quite famous.
I would still think the 3 most famous dancers in the world are: Fred Astaire, Balanchine and Baryshnikov.
tangofiction
Jun. 15th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC)
I think of the three I mentioned, Pavlova is the most well-known by the general public, followed by Fonteyn and Plisetskaya; although in Russia and among any fans of dance outside Russia, Plisetskaya is probably the best-known. She's undoubtedly the best-known living ballerina, too (and one of the people I most admire).

Fred Astaire -- maybe, but people always talk about him and Ginger Rogers (at least these days).

Baryshnikov -- more in the US than anywhere else in the world; in Europe and Australia, he's not especially well-known, and even when he is known, he's considered outdated and "uncool". Far, far better known and respected is Nureyev (but again, people always talk about him and Margot Fonteyn in the same breath). In fact, I'd say Nureyev is still by far the world's most famous male dancer, followed by Nijinski -- I suppose the latter would be a counterpart to Pavlova.

Balanchine actually wasn't a dancer -- well, he was, back when he was very young, but that's not what he is famous for. He's famous for his distinctive style and his choreography (some of which is genuinely great, although I detest pretty much everything else about him). It is true that most of the famous choreographers, and the most influential ones, were/are men: Petipa (of course!), Massine, Balanchine, Maurice Bejart, Roland Petit, Bob Fosse, Kenneth Macmillan, Matthew Bourne, Graeme Murphy etc. A pity, because there are some great female choreographers too, but the only two I can think of who are relatively well-recognised and influential are Martha Graham and Twyla Tharp.
ripresa
Jun. 15th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
thanks for the informative post.

why do you hate balanchine?
tangofiction
Jun. 15th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
Because he was obsessed with little girls and gave us the ideal of the unhealthily thin, sexless dancer. And because he elevated the choreographer above the dancer to the point where dancer was simply used to express the choreographer's steps -- no facial expression, no chance of putting their own individuality into the role, no freedom. It's not that he didn't consider the dancers, he did, but not as creative partners -- they were the tools he worked with to create his dances. And because of that, I often find his choreography cold and inhuman.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )