Friday, May 31, 2013

Review of "Dancing On My Grave"

I finished reading Gelsey Kirkland's first autobiography, Dancing On My Grave. I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it when I was younger, but I found it fascinating. Written at the end of a self-imposed two year hiatus from dance to break herself of a serious addiction to cocaine and Valium, the tone of the book is bitter, almost vicious at times. She is critical of almost everyone she mentions, and she doesn't spare herself. She comes across as very serious about her craft, to the point of being difficult to work with. Like many brilliant people, she exhibits some characteristics more recently attributed to autism, including the inability to understand social cues that everyone else seems to understand.

An amusing personal note: There was one point in the book where Kirkland talks about preparing for a performance at Goucher College near Baltimore. At the time, March, 1981, I lived quite near there and my then-girlfriend was taking classes with a nearby professional ballet company. I found myself thinking back 32 years, trying to remember if this was something we'd talked about attending. On the next page, however, Kirkland reveals that she blew off that performance due to her drug addiction. I guess we didn't miss a chance to see her after all.

The book ends on a hopeful note, though, with Kirkland and her newly wed husband and co-author, Greg Lawrence, kicking their drug addictions and looking forward to their future together.

Of course the story doesn't end here. Kirkland went on to write another autobiography, The Shape of Love, again with Lawrence as co-author. Published in 1990, it seems this book is not as popular as her first, as the library copy I have is almost pristine. I'll post a review of it when I finish it.

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