Gelsey Kirkland (born December 29, 1952) is an American ballerina. Kirkland joined the New York City Ballet in 1968 at age 15, at the invitation of George Balanchine. She was promoted to soloist in 1969, and principal in 1972. She went on to create leading roles in many of the great twentieth century ballets by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Antony Tudor, including Balanchine’s revival of The Firebird, Robbins’ Goldberg Variations, and Tudor’s The Leaves are Fading. Balanchine re-choreographed his version of Stravinsky’s The Firebird specifically for her. She left the New York City Ballet to join the American Ballet Theatre in 1974.
She is perhaps most famous to the general public for dancing the role of Clara Stahlbaum in Baryshnikov’s 1977 televised production of The Nutcracker. She left the American Ballet Theatre in 1984.