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Allegra Kent on Charlie Rose


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#16 Alina

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 04:59 AM

I have had the great pleasure and honor of having Allegra Kent coach me when I was dancing and I can assure you she is anything but inarticulate or vapid. I think it is often hard for a dancer such as she, that is so used to expressing herself through movement and music, to find the right words when asked difficult questions. I have read her book and find it to be one of the most honest and compelling ballet biographies written. Amongst dancers, she is known to be quite eccentric, often fragile in spirit, but also amazingly clear about many things in life. She is very generous and encouraging with young dancers. For me, being coached by her was one of the most valuable and memorable moments in my career. It was obvious by the way she guided me that her own dancing was inspired by the music and imagination, not at all self-indulgent. After that experience I could see why she had that amazing "other-world" quality to her dancing. I agree in the Charlie Rose interview she seemed to have a bit of trouble with his questions but I attribute that to her being somewhat out of her element. In my experience she has quite a lot to say and perhaps it wasn't so easy to answer his questions without really being able to delve into the true heart of each one.

#17 GWTW

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 06:16 AM

I first learned of Allegra from the book, Dance Is A Contact Sport, and having seen the small clip at the end of the Charlie Rose interview, she must have been indeed just so enthralling and enchanting. Her physical grace though, does not carry to intellectual fluidity. I found the quality of her comments, and even her demeanor, in that interview, as vapid, rather unpolished. Sad really. I wonder if it was the lack of social interaction with people outside NYCB/ballet world, or perhaps not having engaged in other meaningful pursuits besides ballet that might have limited her capacity to actively engage a serious conversation?


Oh,you would be surprised how common this phenomenom is...dissapointing indeed. Two books that reflects your point of view are Kirkland's and Farrell's (both of them not even being able to get a high school diploma), so do the math...2 plus 2 is almost always 4.


People, I think you are being very harsh in these comments. I, and most of the posters on this board, are highly intelligent and verbally articulate with multiple degrees and qualifications. What does that make me? It makes me an average person. Kent, Kirkland and Farrell, on the other hand, are artists of the highest degree who bring beauty and truth into this world. So what if they march to a different drummer? We are the ones who are rewarded.

#18 Ray

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 06:57 AM

I first learned of Allegra from the book, Dance Is A Contact Sport, and having seen the small clip at the end of the Charlie Rose interview, she must have been indeed just so enthralling and enchanting. Her physical grace though, does not carry to intellectual fluidity. I found the quality of her comments, and even her demeanor, in that interview, as vapid, rather unpolished. Sad really. I wonder if it was the lack of social interaction with people outside NYCB/ballet world, or perhaps not having engaged in other meaningful pursuits besides ballet that might have limited her capacity to actively engage a serious conversation?


Oh,you would be surprised how common this phenomenom is...dissapointing indeed. Two books that reflects your point of view are Kirkland's and Farrell's (both of them not even being able to get a high school diploma), so do the math...2 plus 2 is almost always 4.


People, I think you are being very harsh in these comments. I, and most of the posters on this board, are highly intelligent and verbally articulate with multiple degrees and qualifications. What does that make me? It makes me an average person. Kent, Kirkland and Farrell, on the other hand, are artists of the highest degree who bring beauty and truth into this world. So what if they march to a different drummer? We are the ones who are rewarded.


GWTW, I don't disagree with you on a certain level. We make, perhaps, unreasonable demands in expecting these figures to perform as their own best witnesses. The problem is that I'm starting not to feel "rewarded" by what I identify, frankly, as borderline mental illness--or at the very least a profound lack of self-awareness (or awareness of the workings of one's own discipline) compounded by a very poor education. That may just be me being "harsh," sure (I was a bunhead, after all!), but I also see it as taking no pleasure in celebrating someone's "eccentricity" that manifests itself in self-debilitating ways. I felt rewarded when I saw Kent dance; now I just feel sad when I hear her trying to account for and articulate her amazing and rich life.

#19 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 07:24 AM

I first learned of Allegra from the book, Dance Is A Contact Sport, and having seen the small clip at the end of the Charlie Rose interview, she must have been indeed just so enthralling and enchanting. Her physical grace though, does not carry to intellectual fluidity. I found the quality of her comments, and even her demeanor, in that interview, as vapid, rather unpolished. Sad really. I wonder if it was the lack of social interaction with people outside NYCB/ballet world, or perhaps not having engaged in other meaningful pursuits besides ballet that might have limited her capacity to actively engage a serious conversation?



Oh,you would be surprised how common this phenomenom is...dissapointing indeed. Two books that reflects your point of view are Kirkland's and Farrell's (both of them not even being able to get a high school diploma), so do the math...2 plus 2 is almost always 4.



GWTW, I don't disagree with you on a certain level. We make, perhaps, unreasonable demands in expecting these figures to perform as their own best witnesses. The problem is that I'm starting not to feel "rewarded" by what I identify, frankly, as borderline mental illness--or at the very least a profound lack of self-awareness (or awareness of the workings of one's own discipline) compounded by a very poor education. That may just be me being "harsh," sure (I was a bunhead, after all!), but I also see it as taking no pleasure in celebrating someone's "eccentricity" that manifests itself in self-debilitating ways. I felt rewarded when I saw Kent dance; now I just feel sad when I hear her trying to account for and articulate her amazing and rich life.


I don't care it people are harsh, I just don't think any of these judgments are accurate. She was fully in control and even knew how to shove Rose off when he got too pushy. As for not having a high school education, that's not a legitimate complaint when you've proved yourself elsewhere. I've got degrees and 'qualifications' just like GWTW (although nobody had better call ME average... :wink: ), but I simply cannot see that Allegra was not articulate, and if you think Allegra holding her own is displaying 'borderline mental illness', then I'd like to know where you get that, because, if anything, that seems to demonstrate a problem that is current: Identifying something that many of us see as quite normal as 'borderline mental illness', so that no wonder so many people run to get the medications. And what are the self-debilitating ways in which her eccentricity manifested itself? I've yet to see any evidence of it. If her 'amazing and rich life' is known, how is that known, if she is so abysmally inept at describing it?

People are referring to Allegra Kent as 'sad' or 'sad-making'? And how is she not 'aware of the workings of her discipline'? I even think Farrell and Kirkland are articulate in their own ways, they're not supposed to be intellectuals (and they're not.) But Kent, especially, seems to me very healthy on top of all of it--and that she is really the one who had the ideal relationship with Balanchine: He did not try to force her too hard, and let her make her own decisions. In different ways, neither Kirkland nor Farrell seem quite as obviously balanced (which is not a criticism, just an observation about Kent), and I'm not talking about the dancing of any of them, since they were all great dancers.

#20 Amy Reusch

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 07:38 AM

I first learned of Allegra from the book, Dance Is A Contact Sport, and having seen the small clip at the end of the Charlie Rose interview, she must have been indeed just so enthralling and enchanting. Her physical grace though, does not carry to intellectual fluidity. I found the quality of her comments, and even her demeanor, in that interview, as vapid, rather unpolished. Sad really. I wonder if it was the lack of social interaction with people outside NYCB/ballet world, or perhaps not having engaged in other meaningful pursuits besides ballet that might have limited her capacity to actively engage a serious conversation?


I don't know... I think writing is a very different discipline from talking extemporaneously... I remember seeing some footage of Allegra Kent at a lecture demo when she was much much younger and thinking she was so ditzy, and then being stunned when I read her book at what all was going on in that mind. Not everyone thinks linearly in words and grammatical sentences... in fact, perhaps the kind of brain hard-wired for that sort of linear verbal thinking isn't particularly well suited to dancing which requires a multi-focused sensory consciousness? Not that they are mutually exclusive or that it's a valid stereotype... but I'm sure I'm not the first to notice a tendency among many dancers to not be adept at verbal communication, as if that enables their non-verbal communication. I think her mind is flitting across so many ideas that she barely has time verbally to hint at them before she's taken up with the next idea. When she writes, she has time to go back get it all out.

That said, there are still as many different personality types and intelligence types among dancers as there are in the general population.

#21 Old Fashioned

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 08:34 AM

No one should be making an unqualified diagnosis of anyone's mental health, especially not based on a short tv interview.

#22 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 10:05 AM

No one should be making an unqualified diagnosis of anyone's mental health, especially not based on a short TV interview.


Are we going to be back to the DSM-IV discussion ? (I'm in! :devil: )...Anyways, about being both articulated and a dancer is a dichotomy that has been discussed at large in this board before...and yes, there's a factual issue, like it or not...and no Amy Reusch, of course you're not the only one having that idea.

#23 Ray

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 10:28 AM

No one should be making an unqualified diagnosis of anyone's mental health, especially not based on a short tv interview.


I'm not diagnosing and apologize for seeming to; I'm attempting to report my own impressions. I accept that there are different kinds of intelligences and multiple modes of expression, and perhaps Rose might have been more sensitive to Kent in this regard (he's not particularly well-versed on ballet specifics, either--but hey he tries more than most). But I stand by my opinion, completely subjective, that I'm more saddened--deeply, actually--than entertained by Kent's interview and, by extension, with many interviews with performers that reveal a lack of exposure, education, and reflection. Perhaps I idealize artists too much and expect too much.

#24 GWTW

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 10:58 AM

Amy and cubanmiamiboy, I hope I'm not beating a dead horse here, but I do think you are stereotyping dancers by implying that their physical prowess is achieved at the expense of their verbal and oral skills. Obviously most dancers, especially the ones of the caliber we're discussing, are better at dancing than talking. Otherwise, Barbara Walters would be out of a job. On the other hand, there are many dancers who do speak well: Peter Martins, Darcey Bussell (on youtube) and Alexandra Ansanelli (there is a long NPR interview with her from a year or two ago) to name a few who immediately jump to mind.

Perhaps I idealize artists too much and expect too much.

Ray, the current celebrity 'culture' has oddly enough pushed me to try and ignore an artist's private life in appreciating their artistic endeavours. There is such an overload of information - true, false and anything in between - that I began to find it difficult to watch movies and television without having a nagging voice telling me who the actors were dating, what they were rehabbing from, etc.

#25 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 11:30 AM

Amy and cubanmiamiboy, I hope I'm not beating a dead horse here, but I do think you are stereotyping dancers by implying that their physical prowess is achieved at the expense of their verbal and oral skills.

Ok...the point gets close to your thinking, but not quite in a grand total. First, I'm not stereotyping dancers. I mentioned that Kirkland and Farrell decided to stop their studies before graduating from high school, and hence, their general education did have a dead end at some point-(I don't know, on the other side, if any of them decided to continue it afterward during the course of their life). Of course i did not mention several hundred dancers who decide to improve both their educational/intellectual and dancing skills at the same time, and even getting all kind of doctorates and the like. I think there is no way to justify a poverty of speech or communication skills on the lack of time because of ballet life. It would be a personal choice-(and an unfair one)- to blame the art for the quality and quantity of a dancer's education and/or informational level. On the other side, i'm still firm in my idea that this happens very frequently.

#26 agnes

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 12:03 PM

I believe that this was a close-set interview, not with studio audience; nor was the content impromptu. I don't know that this was a live broadcast, either. Working with these conditions, the eventual quality of the interview would've been significantly influenced by all involved: the interviewee, the interviewer, the director, the producer, the wardrobe department....everyone involved to produce the end product.

If indeed interviewees are out of their element, then there are at least two ways to handle it: Refuse an on-camera interview or get themselves into their element as much as they could, by every means that they could. The show's on- and off-stage staff could improve/assist the interviewee by coaching, going through questions that are likely to be asked and practicing with mock interviews, trying different wardrobes to see which complements the interviewee's body and personality the most, the list goes on. Just as in a live performance, the performers (interviewee and interviewer, alike) put their best foot forward, and in this case, there is even more opportunity to present a polished interview because the session could be reviewed and the weaker segments of the conversation re-taken.

I have seen other programs and documentaries where dancers were interviewed, and they were more comfortable and polished than Allegra Kent was. For one thing, Allegra's, (too secretary-like) attire, body language and facial expressions worked against her. In contrast, other dancers appeared comfortable in their skin, not to mention their clothes, and engaged the interviewer quite well. It didn't strike me that the questions asked of any of these dancers were hard questions in any sense; rather, the questions sought to elicit recollections of the dancers' experiences. So it would be very much unlike an interview with say, a political figure, who might be asked double-bladed or veiled questions.

To me, this interview was in a sense, also a performance; and better preparations could have been made to improve its quality. Education or lack of it, mental disorder or none, gift of conversation or natural reserve/reticence, these could be enhanced with practice and preparation. Perhaps what I saw was the result of lack of sufficient practice and preparation on the part of all involved. Unfortunately, the weight of that rock falls on the star of the show -- the interviewee.

#27 bart

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 12:17 PM

I delayed watching this, because a number of the posts made me fear that Kent had come across badly (or wierdly) in the interview. She was one of the dancers at NYCB who helped change my life. It's odd to say this, but I tend to feel very protective of her artistry and her person in a way I haven't felt for other dancers.

I tend to delight most in Alina's post. The following sounds absolutely on target.

I agree in the Charlie Rose interview she seemed to have a bit of trouble with his questions but I attribute that to her being somewhat out of her element. In my experience she has quite a lot to say and perhaps it wasn't so easy to answer his questions without really being able to delve into the true heart of each one.

She had fifteen minutes and knew quite well, I would imagine, how important the Charlie Rose Show is among the section of the population concerned about the arts. She was nervous. You can see and feel it. As a dancer Kent was amazingly responsive to music, but she was unfamiliar with the rhythm and "line" of Rose's interview style and, I believe, the presence of the cameras. At times you can see a kind of brief panic in her eyes, as though she is asking herself: Where should I look? Whom am I talking to? The contrast to Kent's apperanace in the the Dancing for Mr. B interviews is striking.

Edited to Add: (After writing, I read Agnes's post, written from the perspective of someone familiar with the conventions and methods of this kind of interview. I'm grateful for the information. But it seems a little unrealistic to expect someone to refuse the assignment or ask for special coaching just because they are not familiar with the form. Perhaps Rose, as the professional, could have allowed her to free-associate a bit more. He's remarkably prepared about the career, and does seem to be trying to adjust to the vulnerabilities of the woman in front of him. But if there's awkwardness in the results, I would hold him more responsible than her. This includes issues of dress and hair-style. Perhaps styling advice from Miss Havisham would have made for more memorable t.v.)

Kent's a ballet dancer. Her natural form of expression is a form that is thoroughly, obsessively prepared and rehearsed, even if it has to appear to spontaneous on stage. Dancing for Balanchine was many things, but it was NOT improvisatory, as is "live," tightly timed, deadline-oriented question-and-answer television, even when edited. As for her book, she herself mentioned that she wrote it (or most of it) before she knew that it would be published. In context, it seems that this is what made her feel free to take the risk of commiting herself to the project.

The video clip from Symphony in C set me to thinking about Kent's personality on stage. She's slightly tense in the opening balances, but becomes remarkably free as the pdd develops. Those two swoons backward are lovely ... and supremely trusting. She has found her protector. The swoon itself reminded me of a very different risk-taking: the dramatic fall backwards plunge in Unanswered Question.

Generally, one of her unique qualities on stage was to reveal herself overcoming an initial impression of nervousness and vulnerability. It made her, for me, the most poignant of Balanchine's Odettes of her generation. And think of Anna II in Seven Deadly Sins, along side the hard-bitten, I've-Seen-It-All Anna I of Lotte Lenya. No matter what occurs, Kent experiences it as an innocent. She's fundamenteally trusting, looking for guidance of others. She remains unsoiled inside, even when the surroundings are garish (delivered to an orgy, half-naked on a platter!) and the actions shocking.

Important politicians nowadays go on retreats where professional tv people teach them how to perform persuasively in inteviews in front of the camera. Major writers and other performers hit the road for months at a time doing interview after interview. Kent isn't part of that company. Is that surprising? Is it to be regretted?

#28 SandyMcKean

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 12:49 PM

Allow me to go back to something I said early on in this thread.

Seems to me that only thing that counts when watching an interview is whether or not the person is authentic. I frankly don't care who they are being, or what their particular "human-ness" is, as long as I am getting the real deal. I love the near infinite variety that humans come packaged in -- even in their billions. I am interested in listening to any of them, even a serial killer, as long as they are saying what's authentically so for them.

The only time an interview would waste my time, or be sad, or be any other sort of unfortunate experience is if the person was not speaking their own personal truth (authenticity). For example take negative campaign ads as an analogy: they insult the intelligence and create nothing because they are made of images, words, and impressions that are just the opposite of authenticity. There is no communication there....no touching of the human spirit.....but rather nothing more than manipulation.

Allerga was authentic with Charlie Rose IMHO -- however that was, or whatever that looked like. I can ask for no more than that.

#29 Ray

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 01:35 PM

I delayed watching this, because a number of the posts made me fear that Kent had come across badly (or wierdly) in the interview. She was one of the dancers at NYCB who helped change my life. It's odd to say this, but I tend to feel very protective of her artistry and her person in a way I haven't felt for other dancers.

[the rest snipped for space]


Well-put, Bart, as ever. I guess at base I don't want to see Kent exploited (anyone remember her "performance" on Saturday Night Live?) or misunderstood by those outside of the ballet world. And thanks Agnes for the insight into interviews.

#30 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 01:56 PM

Seems to me that only thing that counts when watching an interview is whether or not the person is authentic. I frankly don't care who they are being, or what their particular "human-ness" is, as long as I am getting the real deal. I love the near infinite variety that humans come packaged in -- even in their billions. I am interested in listening to any of them, even a serial killer, as long as they are saying what's authentically so for them.

The only time an interview would waste my time, or be sad, or be any other sort of unfortunate experience is if the person was not speaking their own personal truth (authenticity). For example take negative campaign ads as an analogy: they insult the intelligence and create nothing because they are made of images, words, and impressions that are just the opposite of authenticity. There is no communication there....no touching of the human spirit.....but rather nothing more than manipulation.

Allerga was authentic with Charlie Rose IMHO -- however that was, or whatever that looked like. I can ask for no more than that.



Agree totally, and also think over-analyzing a mere interview on Charlie Rose, with someone who is only doing it because of their book, is for the hobbyist. And I thought he was fine too, only pushing a little too hard once, but he understood he was getting a little too much the reporter that wants the scoop and backed off. Don't agree with Agnes at all that this is any kind of serious performance, it's just a television interview--what matters is does she manage to get herself expressed, it's not even that important if Allegra and Charlie have some ideal rapport; it's a minor form, as it were, and what's important is does she get her material across. She dealt with the questions about Farrell much better than even Tallchief on the 6 Ballerinas tape and infinitely better than Merrill Ashley, who let a kind of pall come over the proceedings--I definitely didn't think Allegra seemed as her own life had been much interrupted by the Farrell phenomenon and she had gone on and lived her life as she saw fit, was less obsessed with this matter than any of the others. If dealing with something like this as a professional, I can understand wardrobe, etc., matters, but Allegra Kent dressed 'too much like a secretary' is more of making of a small little television moment--meant mainly to be an advertisement--than it needs to be. But obviously, we all perceive things differently. I see it almost precisely as canbelto and Sandy, but that's life. And Ray, if you don't want to see her 'exploited', she certainly was anything but by Charlie Rose. All this talk of her fragility is so alien to me. She seemed like a Big Girl--and it would have had to always have been a Big Girl since she was a favourite of Balanchine's and kept insisting upon having babies when she knew he didn't want her to. That in itself shows her strong will. I fail to see her as especially vulnerable, and am glad of it.


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