As a touching ironic footnote to the ballet debacle at Goucher College last weekend involving ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, there comes to us the PBS "Gala of Stars," a three-hour entertainment smorgasbord to be seen locally tomorrow evening at 8 on Channel 26.

The gala is one of those name-studded inducements public TV proffers to viewers during its annual membership campaigns. This one, hosted by Beverly Sills, features encore-style gigs from the likes of Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Liza Minelli, Victor Borge, Jean-Pierre Rampal and numerous others.

Tucked away in the second of the gala's five segments in Kirkland, performing for the first time in her career the celebrated "Dying Swan" solo, accompanied by Isaac Stern on the violin and Lise Nadeau on harp.

The 29-year-old Kirkland -- without question one of the great dancers of our age -- and Patrick Bissell were discharged as principals of American Ballet Theatre Last December. Last Saturday night they were to have danced together as guests in a program at Goucher, but Kirkland refused to go on.The PBS gala was taped in February during an invitation-only performance at Carnegie Hall.

"The Dying Swan" was ceated by Michel Forkine in 1905 for Anna Pavloa. Like others who have followed Pavola, Kirkland transcends the immortal Kitsch of the choregraphy and Saint-Saens' music with the pathetic melody of her spirit. She gives us all the obligaory mimetic elements -- the rippling arms, the arching back and the sad-eyed face nuzzling into a lifted shoulder -- but something else beyond these, piercing and universal: the quintessence of expiring passion.

A final ironic postscript: Tonight at Ford's theatre, Natalia Makarova will be dancing -- guess what? -- "The Dying Swan," accompanied by violinost Itzhak Perlman, in a fund-raising gala to be telecast April 2 by NBC.