Allegra Kent To Tape Video Series For The George Balanchine Foundation
New York City-Allegra Kent, leading dancer with the New York City Ballet for more than thirty years, will teach and coach on camera two Balanchine roles long associated with her special qualities of mystery and delicacy. Taping will commence on October 17,1999, at the New York City Ballet studios in the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York.
Ms. Kent will work with corps de ballet member Janie Taylor, who will be joined by principal dancers Peter Boa1 (La Sonnambula) and Albert Evans (Bugaku). Expanding on material presented in the coaching sessions, Robert Gottlieb, dance critic of the New York Observer, will conduct interview sessions with her. Nancy Reynolds, the Foundation's director of research, who initiated the video series in 1994, will oversee the project.
Both ballets show Balanchine's less familiar mystical side. The central character in La Sonnambula is the eerie Sleepwalker, a role danced by Allegra Kent in the New York City Ballet's revival of the ballet in 1960. (Balanchine choreographed the work, originally entitled The Night Shadow, in 1946 for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, with Alexandra Danilova as the Sleepwalker.)
"We are looking forward to experiencing first-hand the elusive character of the Sleepwalker as presented by Ms. Kent, who herself has said of the role, 'I'm there and yet I'm not there'," commented Ms. Reynolds. "The role's essential ambiguity is a superb vehicle for the one-on-one exchange that is at the core of the Interpreters Archive."
Of the startlingly erotic Bugaku, a "ritual coupling" created for her and Edward Villella in 1963, Ms. Kent wrote in her autobiography, Once a Dancer...: "I wanted to portray something of the look, beauty and mystery of Japanese women. My objective was some intangible quality that would evoke the haunting aura of this ancient culture."
The tapes will become part of The George Balanchine Foundation Video Archives housed at the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York City. Through a program administered by Dance Heritage Coalition, copies are made available to research libraries worldwide.
"To have the unique Allegra Kent sharing her understanding of two such different roles given to her by Balanchine is another great coup for The George Balanchine Foundation Video Archives," Mr. Gottlieb remarked. "Anyone who saw Allegra dance these ballets will grasp how important it is that she passes on her experience of them to future generations."
In a comment that could apply to both works, Ms. Kent has written, "Ballets are like dreams. In both we accept the phantasmagorical as reality. But the mere fact of a pointe shoe means reality is about to be transformed."
ALLEGRA KENT studied ballet with Bronislava Nijinska and Carmelita Maracci in Los Angeles, where she was born. She joined the New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 1952, and soon thereafter George Balanchine created a principal role for her in the "In Unanswered Question" section of Ivesiana. She quickly assumed ballerina roles and in 1957 was promoted to Principal Dancer, performing a varied repertory of ballets by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and others. In addition to Ivesiana, Balanchine created roles for her in Divertimento #15, Stars and Stripes, The Seven Deadly Sins, Episodes, Bugaku, and Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, and she was also in the original casts of Robbins's Dances at the Gathering and Dumbarton Oaks. Ms. Kent is the author of Allegra Kent's Water Beauty Book (1976), and her autobiography Once a Dancer..., was published in 1997. She is currently active as a teacher and coach.
PETER BOAL danced the Nutcracker Prince at the age of eleven in Balanchine's production. He became a Principal Dancer of the New York City Ballet in 1989, singled out for his "impeccable line, quiet musicianship and aristocratic bearing" by New York Post critic Clive Barnes. Mr. Boa1 has danced a wide variety of ballets in the NYCB repertory, including the plum Balanchine roles of Apollo, Prodigal Son, and Oberon in Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as a host of leading roles by other choreographers. He has been seen on television performing Balanchine's Western Symphony and Agon. He also appears in the Balanchine Foundation's video series “The Balanchine Essays." With Judith Fugate, he took part in an earlier Interpreters Archive video, working with Maria Tallchief on Scotch Symphony. In 1996, Mr. Boal received the Dance Magazine Award.
ALBERT EVANS joined the New York City Ballet in 1988 and was immediately given leading roles in two American Music Festival ballets: William Forsythe's Behind the China Dogs and Eliot Feld's The Unanswered Question. Since becoming Principal Dancer in 1995, he has performed numerous Balanchine ballets, including The Four Temperaments, Agon, A Midsummer's Night's Dream, and Stravinsky Violin Concerto. As Puck, Jennie Schulman wrote in Backstage, "[he] carried me completely out of this world. ...He managed to give the illusion of flight, and with his impeccable sense of timing in mime, he was completely the highly spirited immortal." Mr. Evans' repertory also includes works by Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins, as well as several roles created for him in Diamond Project ballets. In Kevin O/Day's Open Strings, "Evans cooled the eye with liquid moves," according to Mae G. Banner in The Saratogian. In 1997, Mr. Evans was coached for the Interpreters Archive by Todd Bolender in the Phlegmatic variation from The Four Temperaments.
JANIE TAYLOR trained at the Giacobbe Academy of Dance in New Orleans and at the School of American Ballet, joining the New York City Ballet in 1995. She has danced principal parts in Balanchine's La Valse, Tarantella, and Ivesiana (in the role created for Allegra Kent), and in Robbins's 2 &3 Part Inventions, among others. In 1999, Peter Martins choreographed a role for her in Them Twos.
ROBERT GOTTLIEB was formerly Editor-in-Chief of Simon & Schuster, Knopf, and The New Yorker. For many years he was associated with the New York City Ballet. He currently writes dance criticism for the New York Observer.
NANCY REYNOLDS, director of research for The George Balanchine Foundation, was a dancer with the New York City Ballet. She is now a dance historian and author.