Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Read any good books on vacation?

I always felt like I never had time to read for pleasure while I was attending school. So the first thing I did after my last semester was over was finish the book I had started reading a while ago. Dancing on my Grave by Gelsey Kirkland with Greg Lawrence, was an intimate and accurate look at the ballet world from one of the best American ballerinas of this century.

I love how this book is written. Kirkland would describe events and performances from her point of view, but then also include many of the reviews that were published pertaining to those performances. Including her reviews, both positive and negative, gave the book more of a historical accuracy for me. About the last quarter of the book is the saddest in her story. Kirkland gives a powerfully chilling description of her descent into depression and battle with overcoming the control of cocaine.

Without a personal artistic purpose, dancing became her burden and could only be accomplished with "a quick blast of confidence." The coke and dancing were synonymous and though she knew she loved one, she couldn't figure out which.

While I was reading the horrible images of her having brain seizures, losing teeth, losing friends, losing her job, I started getting so angry with her and wondering why she would try to glamorize this disillusioned state of being, giving dancers a bad reputation. But like eyes glued to a train wreck, I was unable to turn away.

Finally Kirkland met someone who, like herself, also had a life-threatening addiction. Greg Lawrence helped Kirkland by giving her a way out. Ending the self destruction also required quitting dance for a time period. Together, they left the city and lived in solitude on a farm in the country. It gave them both the stress-free environment needed to clear their mind of negative thoughts. At the same time, they welcomed the ideas of the classical artists. They used their minds to overcome the addiction, flooding their heads with music, art, and literature until they could make sense of the concept of art and its application to their lives.

Finally the reason she wrote the book came into the light. Writing her story was therapeutic for Kirkland to overcome everything she had been through. But it was also a huge contribution to the dance world and even to society. Kirkland wrote this book to prevent others from experiencing the same tragedies. And that is a cause that I can personally respect.

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