Dance: U.S. Ballet Soars

And in model roles, the role model is high-flying Gelsey Kirkland

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The question of what Gelsey does when not involved with dance formerly evoked an immediate response: When is that? Now she finds time for friends. She and Johnna, a principal dancer with the Los Angeles Ballet, are on easy if not intimate terms. Schafer lives nearby, and the two regularly dine together. Since both must watch their weight, they order separate appetizers and share a single main course. The new Gelsey has learned to like being naughty, at least once in a while. What does she do when she wants to feel wicked? "I just come home, eat a few good cookies and turn on the telly." After a binge of soap operas, she is bored enough: "I want to work again."

And there she was again last week, in class, working. The night before, she had drawn her customary bravos at A.B.T.'s Lincoln Center opening program and then, with Schafer and some friends, lingered at a West Side restaurant until 2 a.m. Now, with four hours of sleep behind her, Gelsey is a ragamuffin hiding from attention, swathed in a tentlike brown tunic and baggy sweat pants. The rehearsal piano pounds away, and Howard's piercing voice ("Now up, now up, now up ") guides some 90 students through a long series of stretches and drills. Morning sunlight pours through the tall windows; the air is humid with exertion. Gelsey moves among the stretching, straining bodies, her eyes dense with concentration. "The floor could collapse," says Howard, "and she would not notice." She works in counterpoint to the other dancers, seeming to sense a rhythm in his commands meant especially for her. Howard knows what she is up to: "She is trying to take dance into the next century." Gelsey looks at herself in the mirrored wall and cocks a leg high, high behind her. Now, dance.

— Paul Gray

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