I investigate my art through the lens, or – better! – through the body of a trained ballet dancer. My legs respond most readily to a daily ballet class; my muscles most easily remember movement impelled by music or rhythm. I crave discipline and direction and certainty and steps and counts. I believe in the strength of my ballet roots – if I didn’t, I’d have no business encouraging my students to grow theirs.

That said, my “practice” now includes questioning what I can’t help but feel is a somewhat restrictive (self-created?) routine, even in performance. You mentioned once that you’d heard someone say “glamour is restraint.” If that’s true, I embody the unglamorous: I throw myself aggressively around the city and into studios and into ideas. I’m always falling in love with my fellow artists and adventurers. I’m intensely in the moment… until it passes.

excerpted from “A Letter to Will Rawls,” #loveyoumeanit (2015)

Photo: Emon Hassan
Photo: Emon Hassan


Kaitlyn Gilliland began her dance training at the Minnesota Dance Theatre and continued her studies at the School of American Ballet, where she received the Mae L. Wien Award for outstanding promise in 2004. From 2006 to 2011, Ms. Gilliland danced with the New York City Ballet, performing corps, soloist, and principal roles in works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Eliot Feld, Douglas Lee, Peter Martins, Angelin Preljocaj, Alexei Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon. She was the New York City Ballet’s Janice Levin Dancer Honoree in 2010.

Since leaving the New York City Ballet, Ms. Gilliland has appeared on stage and on film with BalletNext, BalletCollective, Ballet Tech, Claudia Schreier & Company, Emery LeCrone Dance, Intermezzo Dance Company, Minnesota Dance Theatre, New Chamber Ballet, Pontus Lidberg Dance, and Trainor Dance, performing repertory by Charles Askegard, Constantine Baecher, Mauro Bigonzetti, Gemma Bond, Eliot Feld, Marcelo Gomes, Adam Hendrickson, Gabrielle Lamb, Pontus Lidberg, Brian Reeder, Jillian Pena, Troy Schumacher, Claudia Schreier, and Michele Wiles, among others. She originated the role of “Clara” in A Nutcracker: Part 1 (The Workshop) produced in collaboration with Designated Movement and JV Squad. In February of 2015, she presented #loveyoumeanit, an original work created in conversation with Will Rawls for Danspace’s 2015 Platform Series “Dancers, Buildings, and People in the Streets.”

In 2014, Ms. Gilliland joined Twyla Tharp’s 50th Anniversary National Tour and went on to perform with Twyla Tharp Dance for three years, dancing featured roles in Tharp‘s Beethoven Opus 130, Brahms Paganini, Country Dances, Dylan Love Songs, Entr’Acte, The Fugue, Nine Sinatra Songs, The One Hundreds, Preludes and Fugues, The Raggedy Dances, and Yowzie. Kaitlyn also appeared in Ms. Tharp‘s Spring 2017 “Black Box” series, presented at the Harlem School for the Arts.

In October of 2017, Ms. Gilliland joined L.A. Dance Project under the direction of Benjamin Millepied.

Ms. Gilliland served on the faculty of the School of American Ballet from 2012 to 2015 and as an instructor for The New York City Public School for Dance (The Ballet Tech School) for one year. In May of 2015, she graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University with a degree in Psychology.

Dressing Room Talk, pt. 2

backwards and into the future   November 12, 2016 Long Island, New York It’s our final tour performance, and so far it feels like my best by a stretch. My body is relaxed, loose and strong. I have no nerves. … Continued

Dressing Room Talk (pt. 1)

| 11.2.16 | The intermission between the Beethoven and the Brahms is the first opportunity I have during our program to sit down and breathe in the dressing room. It’s a minute – fifteen to twenty, actually – to process … Continued

Playing Favorites (Act II)

| 10.24.16 | BEETHOVEN OPUS 130 (2016) Our Cast: Matthew Dibble with Ron Todorowski, Daniel Baker, Ashlee Dupre, Ramona Kelley, Amy Ruggiero, Reed Tankersley, me. Dancerly duties: This dance is very much Matt’s, so if I attempt to describe it … Continued

Playing Favorites (Act I)

| 10.20.16 | Today I’m going to play favorites. At the end of many a workday, Twyla makes a habit of asking her dancers to report on our favorite part of rehearsal. It is often a quick-thinking exercise in creativity … Continued

Some Unnecessary Program Notes

| 10.14.2016 | (here I will tell you nothing useful about anything you’re about to see) On the tour bus. It’s the day after our opening in Mesa, AZ. I’m going to describe my dancing in this program we’re touring. … Continued


| 10.8.2016 | THE DAY OF The day after the day off is the day of our first tour performance. As I wake up, my morning lags under the pressure of a big premiere, which feels unwarranted since that has … Continued

The Day Off

|10.6.2016|   We arrive in Arizona to an afternoon off. Then another day off. This is not my first Tharp rodeo, and I’ve so far learned that how I spend my free time on these grueling, tricky tours must take … Continued

Tour Diary, Take Two

|10.5.2016| Following an excited announcement introducing my blog this spring, I remained mostly silent – save for a couple of painstakingly and heavily revised reflections – throughout the summer. For this inactivity I can provide a few reasons, stemming mostly … Continued

the blog

| 6.7.2016 | Some Kind of Second Wind | The not-so-serious diary of a dancer on the run, inspired by David Foster Wallace’s “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart,” and the often undocumented wit and intelligence of my colleagues and … Continued

Five Days in Italy Through My Favorite Filters

| 7.3.16 | Tour diary. (Or, the photos that didn’t make it to Instagram.) Photos from a recent Tharp tour to Italy, where the company performed an evening of three dances scheduled to arrive in New York this month. Few … Continued

How to Defeat Your Demons (Exercise them)

| 7.31.16 | Early this summer, a few colleagues and I sat down with Twyla Tharp and Gia Kourlas for a Times feature on our recent July season at the Joyce Theater. When we’d exhausted our reflections on the company’s current repertory, … Continued

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