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SAB 90 - Gelsey Kirkland

Gelsey on being a student: “I developed a lot of inhibitions, complexes about my eyes [too big], my nose [too small], my complexion—every pimple was as big as Mount Etna. I knew only one thing: that I was talented as a dancer and that if I worked hard I would get better. I did—and I did. Work was my happiness.”

—Newsweek, May 1975


School of American Ballet teachers remember Gelsey:


“One of Tumkovsky’s favorite students was Gelsey Kirkland, noted for a stubborn sense of self-direction from her earliest years at the School. ‘I loved Gelsey,” Tumkovsky says simply. ‘She was not naughty with me. She trust me.’ Tumkovsky is noted for her concerns, if briskly expressed, for her students. ‘When they get into the company, she bursts into tears of joy.’”

—“But First a School” by Jennifer Dunning


Elise Reiman:

"I’ve had a lot of wonderful students. Gelsey Kirkland was eight years old when she started in my class. I don’t think we can take credit for Gelsey. She is self-taught. She was a very difficult child who resisted, but she has an enormous talent and a wonderful body. Then I taught Darci Kistler. She has Balanchine’s “You can do” approach. Maybe she could do something and maybe she couldn’t, but she would try no matter how tricky it was.”

—“Balanchine’s Ballerinas” by Robert Tracy.


(left) Photo by Carolyn George (center) Photo by Farrell Grehan, 1970. LIFE Magazine. (right) Photo by Paul Slade, 1970.



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