Day 77 of 84 Days of 84 Ribbons: Life after Dance
This month Kaori Nakamura will retire from Pacific Northwest Ballet. She’ll join other premiere dancers like Patricia Barkley, Suzanne Farrell and Mikhail Baryshnikov by retiring after two or more decades of dancing. Many move on the focus on their young families; others become artistic directors, guest instructors or guest performers. Still others form their own dance academies. Like many of us, it is difficult to walk away from a career that consumes us from a very young age. Finding a replacement life experience often takes patience as well as capital.
Gelsey Kirkland is a prime example of a dancer turned ballet academy director. She began as Balanchine’s prize pupil and dancer and struggled through eating disorders, drug addiction, changing dance companies and finding herself. In recent years she recently created The Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet in NYC. Gelsey is a task master with a heart for getting the body and mind aligned with the dance selections. Formerly a renegade dancer, she now inspires young dancers, sharing her unique ‘take’ on what is required to not just succeed, but to excel.
As she moved from dancing to teaching, she wrote two mature reader books: Dancing On my Grave and The Shape of Love. Both take you through dance and personal struggles as well as through her addictions. Hopefully most dancers do not experience her extremes; unfortunately some still do. Regardless, her struggles shook me to my core.
Life after any career often takes time to discover. If you’ve moved on to your second career I’d be interested to know what changes you’ve made or if you’ve stayed connected to your original career. If you are still in your primary career, what do you see as your second (retirement) career?