Gelsey Kirkland in “Theme And Variations”

March 8, 2016

Today, I found a YouTube Channel that posts various archival footage of Balanchine’s ballets, and the first thing I searched for was “Theme And Variations.” That infamous opening variation the principal female ballerina must perform in front of her corps, including blurs of chaines that change direction on a dime, has always fascinated me, and I had not seen it in a long time.
Much to my surprise and delight, the version I found stars one of my favorite ballet couples of all time: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Deep breath.
Now, exhale.

These two dancers had chemistry, I know that. It is obvious. However, what may not be so obvious to the untrained eye is the exquisite amount of DETAIL these dancers – Gelsey in particular – put into each and every step, every breath, every moment of their dancing. Her timing is impeccable. She melts into a plie only to slice through a tendu with razor-sharp wit! She is equally elegant and spritely, regal and coquettish, strong and supple.  She is, in a word, brilliant.

Below is the video – I believe this to be one of the truly great performances of Balanchine’s ballet – more on that topic later. Suffice it to say, the more I watch his work, the more I realize just how profound an impact Mr. B. had on my grooming as a ballet dancer.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Tish Hicks says:

    Gerogia!!! You transported me back to some of my favorite memories, being a chubby horse loving kid myself, I never really did ballet, but my best friend Catharine was obsessively passionate and introduced me to everything… we would look through ballet books and magazines with the fervor of other young girls looking at Tiger Beat… debating the merits of Gelsey Kirkland vs. Merrill Ashley, ABT vs. NYCB:)))

    A flood of memories of grey Chicago Saturdays, warm barley soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and growing the roots of a life long friendship through sharing of passions.

    Thank you for sharing yours and living the dream!


    1. BallerinaBadass says:

      That’s wonderful, Tish! I had to choose between horses and ballet as my focus when I was about 11. I love that you went with horses but still loved ballet! Thank you for sharing this story. Love, Georgia


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