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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