THE SHAPE OF LOVE by Gelsey & Greg Lawrence Kirkland
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A less frenzied but still intensely introspective Kirkland explains the workings of her creative process. In 1986, at age 33, Kirkland was ""recovered"" from the drug addiction described in Dancing on My Grave; having ""gained a wealth of insights I decided to put myself and my art to the test."" She was already a questionable commodity because of her conduct during the drug years; and she would become fully persona non grata upon the publication of her tell-all autobiography. So Kirkland packed up husband (writer Greg Lawrence) and supporting gear (toe shoes, false eyelashes, make-up, exercise equipment), and at director Anthony Dowell's invitation, joined London's Royal Ballet. Kirkland exhaustively details her preparation for her Royal Ballet roles. As she explains to her husband, ""It's not enough just to act the role. It's not enough to come up with an interpretation. The audience actually has to be able to see me think, and I have to think the purest thoughts and link them together, step by step."" Kirkland's creation of a role depends on endless reflection, reading of the original source material, discussions with her husband (Lawrence, in spite of his obvious importance to Kirkland, remains a shadowy figure here) and colleagues, special physical exercises beyond ballet class, even analyzing her dreams and literally thinking through the motivation of each gesture made on stage. Reviews of Kirkland's dancing were stupendous, but she was once again felled by injury after only a few performances. She then moved on to teaching and coaching others in her approach. Voyeurs of the ballet world will find little gossip here to compare with the revelations in Kirkland's earlier work: a cool chance encounter with former flame Baryshnikov, one desperate phone call from her doomed ex-partner Patrick Bissell. Kirkland's own state of mind seems a little precarious (nightmares; terror/grief at being apart from her husband for even a short time; endless difficulty with her shoes; and those very frequent injuries), but she is clear in telling us how exactly she goes about her work. Though likely to attract the considerable Kirkland audience, then, this is chiefly of interest for her insights into the craft of creating ballet--and in absolute contrast to Suzanne Farrell's exuberant, pragmatic approach (see above).

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1990
Publisher: Doubleday