cubanmiamiboy

Allegra Kent in Symphony in C 2nd Mvt.

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I have seen Symphony in C-(not too often)-and mainly in NY, a couple of runs in Miami and several online videos.  Still...every time I watch the John Clifford 1973 video-(on my smart TV)-I get glued to the screen whenever the second movements comes along.  What is with Allegra Kent that makes this section...almost surreal..???.  There is something on her which I can't quite describe...that comes from within and out.  She dances this all the way from her face to her fingers.  There is as if she truly inhabits the music...as if she BECOMES the music itself.  Very rarely I have seen a ballerina that is able to transmit almost a hypnotic quality to the choreography.  What was that?! I can't describe it as aloofness...or sadness-(could it be maybe..??), but it is certainly something she has...probably a natural quality of hers.  It is very strange, but that particular movement WITH HER, doesn't fail to move me to tears.  Can someone shred some light on the subject...? What is this strange feeling of Kent that she radiates...? Who IS Allegra Kent..? What was going on with her as a ballerina-(or maybe as a person)- while in NYCB....? Yes...it is very peculiar what she gives...what she does....but definitely beautiful and certainly-(and strangely)- unique.

 

 

 

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Allegra Kent wrote a memoir called "Once a Dancer," and she told part of her story in the documentary "Six Ballerinas."  The short answer is, she grew  up in California with a stage mother, joined NYCB early, married the photographer Bert "Loves Women Too Much" Stern, and Balanchine kept her on the payroll until the early '80's to help her support her three kids.  (All described in her grim memoir; here's a review of it by Joan Acocella.)  She got three kids and some lovely photos from the marriage, including some with her children.

 

She was one of Balanchine's muses, but she kept having kids and leaving rehearsal to take care of them -- Mazo describes this in "Dance Is a Contact Sport" -- and while he was clearly loyal to her, as her commitment to ballet waned, at least the kind of commitment he demanded, he stopped choreographing for her, which she describes in the "Six Ballerinas" documentary.

 

She joined NYCB very early, at about 15.  Balanchine created great roles for her, some are "Divertimento No. 15" (First Soloist), "The Unanswered Question" from "Ivesiana," -- there's a section of it with someone else (Suki Schorer?) dancing in the Balanchine bio (video, PBS)  -- First Movement of "Stars and Stripes," "Concerto Op. 24" (Third Movement) of "Episodes," lead in "Bugaku" -- revived "La Sonnambula" for her -- in the "Six Ballerinas" documentary there is a scene of her coaching Darci Kistler and Ib Andersen in it -- and cast her in many of his iconic roles, like "Agon" Pas de Deux, "Symphony in C" Second Movement, and the Act II Divertissement of "A Midsummer Night's Dream":

 

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Well, that was exactly what I needed today!

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Others have said it before me, but it's so true: Symphony in C is bread and water for ballet lovers -- never ceases to amaze and recharge.

 

One thing I noticed about that 1973 recording: the men in plain black costumes against the very dark background.  Even today, the men are in all black with some sparklies on the bodice. They almost fade into the background, reinforcing the feel of male dancers as merely "porteurs" in the old sense, even though they do have some nice bits in this choreography. Balanchine's ideal of "ballet is woman" is much in evidence here.

 

And if people haven't yet read it, Nancy Goldner's analysis of this ballet in More Balanchine Variations will show you things you hadn't noticed before. E.g., in the fourth movement, the corps encircling the principals and soloists has some amazing moves - like a simple yet complex series of tendus in different positions.

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A poet friend of mine, upon seeing the 1973 Berlin video of Allegra in the Symphony in C 2nd movement, said she has a nobility about her...Her autobiographical book referenced above shows her to be an extremely intelligent, articulate, and very witty observer or herself and her own life, which, off the stage, was often a mess! 

 

What did Balanchine think of her?  

Page 31, Gloria Contreras:  Diary of a Choreographer.  What I Learned from Balanchine, Jorge Pinto Books, Inc., New York, 2008.

"I just got back from a rehearsal of Concerto Barocco, which I attended as a spectator.  It’s set to Bach and the choreography rivals the music in its beauty and depth.  Allegra Kent and Violette Verdy are the soloists.  The former, as usual, has a harmonious style and is delightful to watch.  Violette has a lot of personality and is a very good ballerina, but she’s going through hell because she still doesn’t know the piece.  During the rehearsals she concentrates and is respectful to the choreographers and amiable with her companions, without talking down to the girls in the corps de ballet.  At the end of the rehearsal I went up to Balanchine  and told him my opinion of Concerto Barocco, that it’s profoundly religious.  I know that he liked the idea because his eyes shone and a subtle smile passed across his face.  But his answer was “Allegra is divine!” "

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Hi Cristian,

 

So happy you shared your thoughts on Allegra Kent.  I have many feelings and thoughts about Allegra - she is one of the most poignant figures in ballet and particularly NYCB history.   I think of her as a poet. I have more thoughts but I wanted to acknowledge your post and to thank you for bringing up the topic.        

 

 

 

 

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I really can't remember where did I get this quote from Balanchine-(and it was fairly recent that I read it...in someone's memoir...maybe D'Amboise's?), but there is a moment when someone asks Balanchine that if he had to name ONE single name from the myriad of ballerinas who inspired him in his long choreographic life, which would his favorite and he, without hesitation, rapidly answered "Allegra".  And something along the lines that he still knew that he couldn't get all he wanted from her, but it was her "The One".

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Cubanmiamiboy - Yes is was from the D'Amboise autobiography: he (J.D.) asked Balanchine the question.

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7 hours ago, DanielBenton said:

Cubanmiamiboy - Yes is was from the D'Amboise autobiography: he (J.D.) asked Balanchine the question.

 

👍

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When, I wonder, did d'Amboise ask that question...

 

I only saw Kent a couple of times, but remember her as always haunting, magical, distinctive...whatever the role. A very special ballerina.

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Yes, I too would like to know the year he said it!  I saw Kent in the role and it was her performance that revealed the beauty of the work.  (previously I saw Tannaquil LeClercq, but always felt she was unsuited to the role)---and then finally, the ultimate--- Farrell!!  I have always loved and responded to Kent's 'other world'.

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Very late in GB' life:

 

Here is the quotation from D'Amboise's book:


In the year before his death, I often escorted Balanchine to visit the legendary Dr. James Gould 
for ear tests. Killing time in the waiting room, I once asked, "Mr. B, in the history of all the 
ballerinas you've taught and choreographed for-from the earliest days, Toumanova, Baronova, 
Riabouchinska, all the way up till today-who do you con­ sider the most talented? The most unusual? 
" He immediately answered : "Allegra. She is the most gifted. She is missing only one ele­ ment in 
'the formula to be perfect .' . . . It's like chemistry in a jar . Energy, lots of it, must be 
there. That's the soup that everything cooks in. Then you put in ambition and humility. 'Ah, I'm 
not good enough yet, I can be better.' But, there must be balance-not so much humil­ity that you 
end up saying, Tm not good enough, I'll never be ready.' You must have in the formula pride, but 
not so much that the dancer says, 'I don't do matinees.' You can be stupid and still dance 
beautifully, but you can't become great without intelligence . . . Allegra has the right 
ingredients, but something prevents her from being consistent. I can't count on her. Still, I keep 
her on salary and tell her, 'When you're ready to dance, come dance. If you dance one ballet a year, 
it's enough.' She's worth it.''
 

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I just discovered her about a year ago from video clips. I haven't watched that carefully, but I immediately considered her to be very special.  She has very impressive physical capability and, above all, great sensitivity . It doesn't surprise me at all that George Balanchine valued her so highly. 

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On 12 Feb 2017 at 9:02 AM, cubanmiamiboy said:

I have seen Symphony in C-(not too often)-and mainly in NY, a couple of runs in Miami and several online videos.  Still...every time I watch the John Clifford 1973 video-(on my smart TV)-I get glued to the screen whenever the second movements comes along.  What is with Allegra Kent that makes this section...almost surreal..???.  There is something on her which I can't quite describe...that comes from within and out.  She dances this all the way from her face to her fingers.  There is as if she truly inhabits the music...as if she BECOMES the music itself.  Very rarely I have seen a ballerina that is able to transmit almost a hypnotic quality to the choreography.  What was that?! I can't describe it as aloofness...or sadness-(could it be maybe..??), but it is certainly something she has...probably a natural quality of hers.  It is very strange, but that particular movement WITH HER, doesn't fail to move me to tears.  Can someone shred some light on the subject...? What is this strange feeling of Kent that she radiates...? Who IS Allegra Kent..? What was going on with her as a ballerina-(or maybe as a person)- while in NYCB....? Yes...it is very peculiar what she gives...what she does....but definitely beautiful and certainly-(and strangely)- unique.

 

 

 

Cristian, to follow up on this, my first impression was "Vulnerability." 

 

 

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On 12 Feb 2017 at 9:02 AM, cubanmiamiboy said:

  What is with Allegra Kent that makes this section...almost surreal..???.  There is something on her which I can't quite describe...that comes from within and out.  She dances this all the way from her face to her fingers.  There is as if she truly inhabits the music...as if she BECOMES the music itself.  Very rarely I have seen a ballerina that is able to transmit almost a hypnotic quality to the choreography.  

 

 

Cristian, here is another lady, Eva Evdokimova, somewhat same generation and Western geography, of whom I knew nothing about, until the recent discussion. She might evoke some similar feelings. She does for me.

 

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/41712-eva-evdokimova/

 

I enjoy first watching the Giselle duets, starting at 6:45 in the video posted at top of page and then going back to the beginning for La Sylphide.

 

Let us know what you think, if you care to.

Edited by Buddy
speling corrections

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I showed my dd Allegra in the 2nd movement before she watched the PBS showing of Symphony in C.  She immediately noticed the difference.  Allegra had that...something else.

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Yes, Allegra was otherworldly. She floated. When I was a teenager in the 1960s she was my favorite. I felt her quintessential role was the sleepwalker in La Sonnambula. I have never forgotten that performance. A few years ago I saw Janie Taylor perform the role beautifully with New York City Ballet and at intermission I noticed Jacques D'Amboise sitting a few rows in front of me. I loved his dancing and had read his recent memoir so I asked him if I might say hello. He was very gracious and we reminisced about those days and about Allegra in La Sonnambula and he too agreed with me about her performance in that role. For me the ballerina who comes closest to Allegra's qualities today is Sterling Hyltin--her delicacy, fluidity, and submersion in a role. Thanks for the look back. 

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1 hour ago, CTballetfan said:

A few years ago I saw Janie Taylor perform the role beautifully with New York City Ballet and at intermission I noticed Jacques D'Amboise sitting a few rows in front of me. I loved his dancing and had read his recent memoir so I asked him if I might say hello. He was very gracious and we reminisced about those days and about Allegra.

 

A little OT but..I also saw D'Amboise a few years ago and also after reading his book. A true gentleman...very humble and approachable. In that ocassion I asked him about "Apollo", and he told me that he much preferred the longer version-(birth and Parnassus). He also said that it had been very hard for him to dance the ballet in the televised version in such small studio. He laughed all the way during my mini-interview.😀

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On 2/12/2017 at 9:46 AM, Helene said:

She joined NYCB very early, at about 15.  Balanchine created great roles for her, some are "Divertimento No. 15" (First Soloist), "The Unanswered Question" from "Ivesiana," -- there's a section of it with someone else (Suki Schorer?) dancing in the Balanchine bio (video, PBS)  -- First Movement of "Stars and Stripes," "Concerto Op. 24" (Third Movement) of "Episodes," lead in "Bugaku" -- revived "La Sonnambula" for her -- in the "Six Ballerinas" documentary there is a scene of her coaching Darci Kistler and Ib Andersen in it -- and cast her in many of his iconic roles, like "Agon" Pas de Deux, "Symphony in C" Second Movement, and the Act II Divertissement of "A Midsummer Night's Dream":

 

One thing I've always remembered from photos, and a documentary interview, is that Kent was the dancer in the 1958 Seven Deadly Sins revival:

 

"Although written as a commentary on the decadence of Berlin in the early 1930s, Weill and Brecht decided to set the piece in America, a country they had not yet visited. The ballet was first performed at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris on June 7, 1933, and was produced, directed and choreographed by George Balanchine. The original production starred Weill’s wife Lotte Lenya as the singer and Tilly Losch as the dancer. In 1958 Balanchine revived the production for New York City Ballet with Lenya recreating her original role and Allegra Kent as the dancer."

 

The 7 Deadly Sins was a big success, but unfortunately, so much of the project was forgotten by the time another revival was considered that it could not be pieced together again - it is essentially a lost work.

 

Edited by pherank

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The Balanchine Foundation is (fortunately) posting a few of the interviews with Allegra Kent - they give a good sense of how unique her personality is.

 

Robert Gottlieb interviews Allegra Kent about La Sonnambula
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC2gUfHZ4oY

Allegra Kent on Bugaku
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eMJcS59iIg


Allegra Kent and Todd Bolender - 'The Unanswered Question' from Ivesiana
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reHotcuMQWY

 

 

 

 

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On 2/14/2017 at 7:38 AM, atm711 said:

Yes, I too would like to know the year he said it!  I saw Kent in the role and it was her performance that revealed the beauty of the work.  (previously I saw Tannaquil LeClercq, but always felt she was unsuited to the role)---and then finally, the ultimate--- Farrell!!  I have always loved and responded to Kent's 'other world'.

 

Just a note to say I always enjoy reading your comments on dancers, atm711. I never saw Farrell in it but I did read Croce saying that it wasn't one of her best roles, so I appreciate hearing other views. So often the critic(s) get the last word!

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I thought the PBS broadcast does better justice to the second movement of Symphony in C than the Kent-Ludlow film shown in Six Balanchine Ballerinas. I'm sure Kent was magical in it, but I didn't really see it in that clip.

 

Kent's book is one of the most interesting of ballerina autobiographies, and considerably franker than most.

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8 hours ago, dirac said:

I thought the PBS broadcast does better justice to the second movement of Symphony in C than the Kent-Ludlow film shown in Six Balanchine Ballerinas. I'm sure Kent was magical in it, but I didn't really see it in that clip.

 

I've read that Kent was not at her best in that clip. Can't remember where it was.

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Kent was brought to Germany for the filming because the intended dancer, Gelsey Kirkland, was indisposed, so perhaps Kent wasn't at her most desirable 'fighting weight' (not to be taken literally, o'course) when she was flown in late in the game, more or less.

 

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As I keep watching the duet starting at 9:00 of the video clip posted at the beginning of this topic I continue to be very moved. It seems as if she's superimposing herself onto the voyage that George Balanchine has started for her. Quite often I feel that she is living and expressing herself. Yet she is also reaching beyond, at times as far beyond as she can. She's not only living her life but also exploring and responding to all the beauty that she's encountering -- the insights and the elevation. George Balanchine offers her direction. At times she's a vulnerable self and the next moment she is swept away by a wave of universal beauty, which she rides with poetic magnificence, sensitivity, discovery and embracement.

  

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