Darci Kistler was born in Riverside, California, the youngest of five children and the only girl. Always athletic, Ms. Kistler enjoyed many sports, including skiing, waterskiing, swimming, tennis, football, and dirt biking, before she began studying ballet. At the age of 12 she began studying with Irina Kosmouska in Los Angeles, and that same year she attended a Summer Course at the School of American Ballet. Two years later, she received a full scholarship to SAB.
Ms. Kistler participated in two SAB Workshops. In the first, in 1979, she danced a principal role in Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux's Haydn Concerto, choreographed especially for the Workshop, and danced the pas de deux from the opera William Tell by August Bournonville, staged by Stanley Williams. In 1980, Ms. Kistler danced the principal role in George Balanchine's one-act Swan Lake. She prepared for the role by studying extensively with Alexandra Danilova.
Ms. Kistler joined New York City Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in April 1980, was promoted to the rank of Soloist in 1981, and became a Principal dancer in 1982. She has danced leading roles in many Balanchine ballets, including Agon, Apollp, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, Bugaku, Concerto Barocco, Episodes, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™ (Dewdrop and Sugar Plum Fairy), "Diamonds" from Jewels, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Mozartiana, Prodigal Son, Robert Schumann's "Davidsbundertanze," La Sonnambula, Sylvia Pas de Deux, Symphony in C (second movement), Tzigane, Union Jack, Variations Pour une Porte et un Soupir, Vienna Waltzes, Walpurgisnacht Ballet, and Western Symphony. In addition, Ms. Kistler has danced leading roles in Jerome Robbins' In G Major and In the Night, and Mr. Robbins created leading roles for her in Andantino, Gershwin Concerto, and Piccolo Balletto. Peter Martins created leading roles for her in Adams Violin Concerto, Bach Concerto V, Burleske, The Chairman Dances, Delight of the Muses, Harmonielehre, Morgen, Piano-Rag-Music, The Sleeping Beauty, Stabat Mater, Suite from Histoire du Soldat, Symphonic Dances, Symphony No. 1, Thou Swell, Todo Buenos Aires, and Viva Verdi. She has also danced the lead role in Mr. Martins' Valse Triste. Additional Principal roles created for Ms. Kistler include Ulysses Dove's Red Angles and Robert La Fosse's Danses de Cour.
Ms. Kistler has been seen on national television in PBS's "Dance In America" series in both the "William Tell pas de deux" from Bournonville Dances and in Serenade, and the pas de deux from Swan Lake on the "Kennedy Center Honors" program as part of a tribute to Alexandra Danilova. She was also seen in PBS's "Dance In America" program of "The Balanchine Celebration." Ms. Kistler starred as the Sugarplum Fairy in the 1993 film version of New York City Ballet's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™. In May of 2002, Ms. Kistler appeared in the Live From Lincoln Center broadcast of "New York City Ballet's Diamond Project: Ten Years of New Choreography," dancing in Them Twos.
Darci Kistler joined SAB's permanent faculty in 1994.