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Dancing on My Grave Mass Market Paperback – July, 1996

75 customer reviews

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Mass Market Paperback, July, 1996
$809.02 $1.86

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rarely has a performing artist probed so searchingly and satisfyingly into the wellsprings of creativity as ballerina Kirkland does in this incandescently lyrical memoir written with her husband, whom she met while knocking on the door of a drug dealer's apartment. That is only one item of scandalous interest in an autobiography that resembles Billie Holiday's Lady Sings the Blues in its startling, brutal honesty. But, unlike celebrity autobiographies that mistake "juicy" anecdotes for self-revelation, Dancing on My Grave is also an intellectually stimulating portrait of the artist at war with tradition, with family, friends, lovers and colleagues, but most frustratingly, with herself. The 34-year-old Kirkland, who triumphed at the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater in the 1970s, reveals her one-time addiction to cocaine; that her affair with dancer Patrick Bissell was predicated on their mutual addiction to the drug; that both her romantic and artistic relationships with Baryshnikov were untenable because of his adolescent and unrelenting narcissism ("How was it possible that Misha's resources as an artist, so evident in performance, were different from those of his basic personality?"); that in 1981 she committed herself to a Westchester psychiatric hospital, even as she knew that her anorexia, bulimia and drug addiction were only symptoms of deeper emotional problems. The memoir also serves as a devastating critique of the American dance establishment that cannot be ignored. New York City Ballet founder George Balanchine (who gave Kirkland amphetamine "vitamins" on a tour of the U.S.S.R.) emerges as patronizing, vindictive, petty but still a genius. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, Kirkland nearly paid with her life for "the passivity and guilt instilled by the Balanchine system"a dance theater that valued speed and form over dramatic content. "Don't think, dance," Kirkland was told. The ballerina's disaffection with that dictum is at the heart of this book: "To speak through the dance, to articulate something beyond the steps, was the precise art for which I struggled." Kirkland spares neither the reader nor herself in this memoir full of poetic insights into art and life, and we must be grateful that the dancer, always "seen but not heard," has at last given her inner soul voice in this magnificent autobiography. 50,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Prima ballerina Kirkland and her husband have written an emotional diatribe about Kirkland's dance career. The ballet equivalent of a "tell-it-all" Hollywood biography, this is a horror story of pain, anorexia, emotional difficulties, and casual sex, culminating in four years of cocaine addiction that brought her career to a standstill. At odds with both Balanchine and Baryshnikov in her insistence on putting her own dramatic interpretation into her roles, she is highly critical of Balanchine's training methods and Baryshnikov's partnering skills, which she says lacked finesse both on and off the stage. Her serious accusations that ballet training produces mindless mechanical dolls, and that the rigors of the life drive dancers to drug abuse, are undermined by her shrill, fragmented tone, making this a sad self-justification. Marcia L. Perry, Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (July 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425135004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425135006
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #745,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By BrooklynGal on October 13, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Never have I picked up a book and been completely pulverized with such honesty about the dance world, a world I was part of for 12 years. I have recently reread this book for the 13th time. I can't count the number of passages where I felt exactly the same way about a director, a costumer, a choreographer. I thought I was alone with these impressions. Her words provide great comfort when I remember my own experiences.
Many of her assertions regarding the idolatry of Balanchine and Baryshnikov vs. who they might have been underneath their "genius" touches on one simple fact: they were still human, and thus, flawed. Dance, which dies instantly, is supposedly ethereal and perfectionistic. In reality, it is a punishing art, and takes much mental and emotional focus to deal with the fleeting splendor one achieves while onstage. Her unflinching honesty, revealed from the eye of the studio and not so much the stage, came from a great struggle throughout her parents' uneasy marriage, her alcoholic father, and the struggles of anorexia and drug addiction, appears in passage after passage. When you have delved through the lower depths, you find the words to articulate the feelings all these previous things have denied. It's as if all the physical anguish finally pushed the right words out to describe her experience. I'm sure she made more than a few enemies by revealing all, but in the end, we all have to live with ourselves. We may never know another person as intimately as we know ourselves. She wished to please everyone by being something other than herself. In the end, to paraphrase from her book, she found who she was by seeing what she was not. Out of all the Balanchine dancers who've written autobiographies, Gelsey's and Toni Bentley's "Winter Season" stand out. Both of these dancers seek the truth, and with this, they found themselves. An excellent, stunning read. I adore this book.
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Aariel Portera on November 15, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
No other autobiography I have read has ever been this powerful. I was pulled into Gelsey's heart and felt her pain. She is probably the most beautiful and amazing dancer that ever was in America. Yet she did not feel beautiful. I could relate to all of Gelsey's struggles and emotional hardships. I recommend this book to all those who enjoy autobiographies, all who enjoy ballet, and especially to those who wish to become dancers. It gives a truly realistic view into the dance world. Will become a favourite. Other books to read; Holding Onto the Air by Suzanne Farrell, The Shape of Love (which is the continuing book to Dancing on My Grave) by Gelsey Kirkland and Greg Lawrence.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Charles Alvarez on December 31, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While many people view Gelsey as self absorbed and self serving, I see her as a product of a world which cast her in this role. Her demanding and alcoholic father ( a famous writer himself) always put her sister first and made Gelsey feel like the ugly duckling. It was this inner turmoil which led her to acheive what she did because her competitive spirit, and need to prove herself to her father, drove her to not only accomplish what she did but to reach the depths that she to which she plummeted. I travelled with her during the ABT tour of 1983-84 and found her to be a driven and tortured soul who, despite her air of assurance on stage, was merely a lost child without guidance. When she met Greg Lawrence her life began to take shape as both they helped to lift each other from the morass of drugs and negativity in which they were mired. The book captures, in an unglamorized version, what happened to her during this time. It is a book of redemption and ultimate triumph.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Ballet Dancer on January 2, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a ballet dancer, I have come to find the not-so-glamorous side of the ballet world: eating disorders plague it (and directors encourage them), dancers having multiple relationships with other dancers, and the constant pressure to always be at the top. Gelsey Kirkland seemed to have a ballet career that was glorious and fulfilling, yet with every hit of cocaine she took to keep her dancing, her life gained more emptiness and she was dying. Her personal torment is so personally and vividly revealed in this autobiography that you can actually feel her pain and loneliness as she reiterates each of her harrowing experiences. It is sad that some of her best dramatic performances were given at the lowest points in her personal life. This is one of the most stunning autobiographies I have ever read.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michele Motley on August 11, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Wow! This book was simply Amazing! The way Gelsey just opens up her heart and tells her story is beautiful! I loved how she told the truth about her partnership with Misha and showed that he wasn't the perfect man, which many have thought. Also, she brought out the true colors of Balanchine. I'm a younger dancer and had looked up to these men as gods in the ballet world, but my mind has some what changed. I could defintly re-late to her obsessiveness about the "perfect body" and becoming attached to the mirrors. I have read this book over and over and each time I learn something new. The only thing I wish is that I could have seen her perform! She is defintly my favorite dancer of all time and always will be! This is a MUST read for any dancer! Non-dancers will enjoy it too and it will give you a look in to a dancers world. The only thing is, you might have trouble with some of the ballet terms :)
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