Urban Crusing

Live your dream: Most memorable dance partnerships.

arts, dance partnerships, famous dancers, gelsey kirkland, live your dream, michail baryshnikovlivingnotes1 Comment



We are on a number two partnership, and that step is proudly taken by 


 Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland

 Two of the greatest ballet dancers in New York at the time of their partnership, Baryshnikov was an exemplary partner for Gelsey Kirkland. Kirkland, one of the 'Balanchine ballerinas' needed an extremely strong partner for her pas de deux numbers because of her virtuoso talent. Baryshnikov proved able to match her onstage as his own talents in ballet were extraordinary.Some of their most famous pas de deux are the ones from Coppelia, Don Quixote, and The Nutcracker.




MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV, a native of Riga, Latvia, was born in 1948 and began studying ballet at the age of nine. As a teenager, he entered the Vaganova Academy in Leningrad, graduating from student to principal dancer of the Kirov Ballet in 1969. In 1974, he left the Soviet Union to dance with major ballet companies around the world including the New York City Ballet where he worked with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. In 1980 he began a 10-year tenure as Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, nurturing a new generation of dancers and choreographers. I have a very special spot in my heart for Michail and his dedication to help dancers and for his sincere open mind when searching for and choreographing for/with new professionals. I'll tell more some other time. He is an amazing man and if you can - seek out ANY opportunity to work with him. I promise , it will be worth every blister and every second. {here is an interview about his arts center. highly recommend!}

"From 1990 to 2002, Mr. Baryshnikov was director and dancer with the White Oak Dance Project, which he co-founded with choreographer Mark Morris. White Oak was born of Baryshnikov’s desire “to be a driving force in the production of art,” and, indeed, it expanded the repertoire and visibility of American modern dance". {more here}




"bravura, poise, and power- Byron Belt, speaking of GELSEY KIRKLAND

Gelsey Kirkland was born to father Jack, a playwright, and Nancy, an actress, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.  She also had an older sister, Johnna, the favourite.This favouritism, in addition to her demanding and alcoholic father, in addition to her own perfectionism would lead to problems in the future.
Johnna started attending the School of American Ballet and Gelsey started soon after, starting an intense rivalry between the sisters.As a student Miss Kirkland was incredibly dedicated - a workaholic some say. When she first started attending the school Miss Kirkland was not very flexible at all and worked on her stretching like crazy to achieve the flexibility required of a ballet dancer( i think this is amazing, as she never gives the idea of non-flexible dancer, and flexibility is one of the most difficult things to achieve if it is not given to one by nature)  She also took extra ballet classes and worked as a model, something she hated, to pay for the classes, and later on quit high school so she could dance more.



 When she was fifteen years old George Balanchine asked Gelsey Kirkland to join the New York City Ballet, and two years later she was promoted to Soloist. At this time Balanchine created his new Firebird with her as the lead. Although Firebird was not a success there was much praise for Miss Kirkland. Later on she danced with her sister in John Cliffords Reveries and created the lead in Jerome Robbins Goldberg Variations.
In 1972 the New York City Ballet toured to Russia where Mikhail Baryshnikov first saw her dance. Two years later, after he defected in Toronto Mr. Baryshnikov asked her to be his partner, so in September of 1974 Gelsey Kirkland left the New York City Ballet and joined the American Ballet Theatre as a principal dancer opposite Mikhail Baryshnikov.
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 - they were in perfect harmony in performance.
The area of ballet where Miss Kirkland excelled was in the romantic ballets.With her delicate body and technique of sewing machine precision she blew away audiences and critics alike. Edward Villella described her as having steel-like legs that are doing the most fantastic technical feats while the upper body is soft and lovely as though nothing were going on underneath in Time magazine.{read more}



A full version of a Nutcracker clip above ( upcoming season appropriate) is here: