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Allegra Kent — "A Midsummer Night's Dream” — Act II Divertissement Duet


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I’ve finally decided that it might be best to give this its own topic. To read more that’s been written  please go to


Like others here probably, I’ve been watching a lot of ballet videos recently. Once again I come back to this, George Balanchine’s Act II Divertissement Duet from "A Midsummer Night's Dream,” as being one of ballet’s finest statements. It’s possibly the finest after the White Swan Duet from Swan Lake. The difference between this and the White Swan Duet is that the White Swan Duet is perhaps more distilled, more essence in fewer words. They’re both possibly among the finest overall artistic statements ever.

The beauty of the Midsummer Night's Dream duet comes from the * Range of Expression * , its meaning and the remarkable way that it’s presented. It was originated by George Balanchine with the wonderful choice of Mendelssohn’s music and then interpreted and presented by Allegra Kent with the extremely fine support of Jacques D’Amboise.

There’s so much that Allegra Kent is expressing, that varies from her love of her partner and her way of conveying this, to relating who she is and how she will make ‘who she is’ apparent. It also goes beyond in seeming to relate and explore who she is in relation to everything. I’ve written that it conveys ‘All of Shakespeare’ because this is what he explored and expressed and the duet and its performance touch on the most elevated and beautiful of this.

It’s described in lovely and highly descriptive dance motion as well as depthful theatrical expression. It combines the two and arrives at a poetic Panorama of Love and its place in the scope of everything.






Edited by Buddy
two minor typo corrections
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Thanks, Rock.

What I’ve expressed is my perception. It’s based on a rather blurry video that I’ve watched over and over for several years, sometimes trying to immerse myself as much as possible and also trying to absorb as much detail as possible.

Yesterday evening, after my post, something quite interesting happened. I found a slightly clearer video of the same performance. Has my perception changed? Yes, somewhat.

She now seems much more into a dream, which certainly makes sense. This is now primary. Jacques D’Amboise is there to support her dream throughout. Although the dream is primary she does at times focus her attention on him, both to thank him and to show her love.

The ending is probably the most beautiful part of the duet. This is where Jacques D’Amboise lowers her almost to the ground with her in a backward reclining position. As a series of still images it’s a masterpiece. Add the continuity of motion and it becomes even more so. Jacques D’Amboise is both completely supporting her and releasing her into her dream.

Added: This could very well be where George Balanchine got his ending (without the erotic aspect). "Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss" by  Antonio Canova. This first version is in the Louvre, Paris and a second version is in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. Also there's a copy in the Metropolitan in New York. George Balanchine could have seen any of these.


Edited by Buddy
Added: added to
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A few more quick thoughts about a Swan Lake, White Swan Duet comparison.

The sculptural, rhythmical, theatrical drama contrasts so beautifully with the flowing aura of the Swan Lake duet. Both are a beautiful dream.

Allegra Kent’s airiness and softness, especially in the arms, bring the two more closely together. The wonderful, ethereal Mendelssohn music is matched by both the choreography and the performance.

Edited by Buddy
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More viewing — more Awe.

There’s just so much going on and it’s so incredibly beautiful. Emotional emphasis, motion and sculpture, meaning, rhythm and structure of relating are all constantly changing.

My considering it perhaps ballet’s finest statement after The Swan Lake Duet continues.

My ultimate love in dance always returns to the Ethereal. This is the most Ethereal of George Balanchine’s works that I know of.

Ethereal is what Swan Lake is about. For me, it’s what ballet is about.

In his A Midsummer Night’s Dream Duet George Balanchine amplifies dimension and range. It seems as if the entire range of elevated emotion is being explored, expressed and above all made into compelling and magnificent dance poetry, into magnificent art and message.

How Allegra Kent and Jacques D'Amboise interpret and express this couldn't be finer, perhaps making it the equal of The Swan Lake Duet.

Added thought:  The ending when Jacques D’Amboise lowers Allegra Kent almost to the ground with her in a backward reclining position is possibly the finest single statement in dance that I've ever seen.


Edited by Buddy
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On 4/17/2020 at 3:28 PM, Buddy said:

Added: This could very well be where George Balanchine got his ending (without the erotic aspect). "Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss" by  Antonio Canova. This first version is in the Louvre, Paris and a second version is in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. Also there's a copy in the Metropolitan in New York. George Balanchine could have seen any of these.


The version at the Met is actually not a copy. It is a preliminary full scale plaster model marked up with a grid for transfer to the final work in marble.

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17 minutes ago, aurora said:

The version at the Met is actually not a copy. It is a preliminary full scale plaster model marked up with a grid for transfer to the final work in marble.

Thanks, Aurora, for this information. If you're familiar with the ending to the A Midsummer Night's Dream — Act II Divertissement Duet do you see a significant resemblance to the Canova sculpture ?  Can you think of any other works of art that the ending might resemble ?

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Please allow me a few summary thoughts. Essential to the ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream Duet’ is the combination of

The Ethereal and The Dramatic

George Balanchine’s Dramatic amplification is what separates this work from the more purely Ethereal ‘Swan Lake Duet.’ Here it’s elevated by the merging of Allegra Kent’s remarkable Theatrical Expression (framed, accented and supported wonderfully by Jacques D’Amboise) and her, and the dance’s, equally remarkable Physical Expression.


is also essential to George Balanchine’s success. The way that he can combine so much interest and so many elements so coherently is remarkable.

Maybe most important is that it seems to be an ongoing kaleidoscope that challenges description and is perhaps ultimately most meaningful as A Magnificent Experience. 


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Still watching, still dazzled.

I've mentioned a lot about how I feel that this duet captures the finest of Shakespeare. Something that I may not have mentioned, but could be obvious, is facial expression. Allegra Kent's face seems to cover a range of emotion, meaning and expression that captures the aura of what Shakespeare's characters were intended to convey at their loftiest, something that gives value and wonder to human endeavor. It's an elevated state of being, something that shows at least moments of nobility at all levels of motivation. The dance, the music and the theatrical inflections of her body reinforce this. Jacques D'Amboise also reinforces this in his dance and facial expression, showing support and understanding.

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What this performance and this work show so beautifully is that Dance is the weaving of dreams without words.


Some thoughts from William Shakespeare, the master of words.


-- Dance 

"The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, 

....The motions of his spirit are dull as night"

“Our bodies are our gardens to the which our wills are gardeners.”

-- Elevated being. Some nobility can be found at all levels of motivation and all forms of character.

“For thy sweet love remembr'd such wealth brings
That then, I scorn to change my state with kings.” 

“My Crown is in my heart, not on my head:
Not deck'd with Diamonds, and Indian stones:
Nor to be seen: my Crown is call'd Content,
A Crown it is, that seldom Kings enjoy.”


-- Love for Another

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”

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Posted (edited)

Not only does Allegra Kent perform George Balanchine's brilliant and seemingly difficult and demanding structural maneuvers extremely well, but she surpasses and uses them in asserting her portrayal. She shows respect for them, but she's, above all, a statement of human expression. She's 'no lady just doing the steps.'

Did Suzanne Farrell ever perform this ?  I'd be curious what anyone might think the differences would be.

George Balanchine has been quoted as saying that what set Allegra Kent apart from other exceptional ballerinas was her intelligence. Would Suzanne Farrell have been more impressive technically ?  Would her depth of feeling have compared to Allegra Kent's 'intelligence' and poetry ?

George Balanchine memorised "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as a student. That's quite a feat and quite a commitment. Why did he do it ? What did he see in this play that was so compelling ? 

I even feel that with his Act II Duet he might have gone beyond Shakespeare and the rest of his own ballet in distilling the essence of a true enchantment, a beautiful and remarkable Midsummer Night's Dream.  

Edited by Buddy
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And, yes, there do seem to be times when she can simply lose herself in the beautiful dance and the magical music, without having to go beyond.

Wendy Whelan has stated that it's these moments that she loves the most when she's dancing.

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For Buddy and other AMND experts...

Having seen it previously, I can highly recommend SFB's A Midsummer Night's Dream - available for individual streaming access beginning 6pm January 21st - February 10, 2021.

Single Stream Access: $29
72 hours of access to purchased programs [although I've seen another statement saying access is for 24 hours only, so I am trying to get clarification from SFB]

EDIT: Single stream access begins January 19th, 12pm, and viewers will be allowed 72 hours access


A Midsummer Night's Dream Casting

Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
Choreographer: George Balanchine
Conductor: Martin West
Chorus: Volti
Singers: Gabrielle Haigh, Alice Del Simone

Lead Butterfly: Julia Rowe
Puck: Cavan Conley
Oberon: Esteban Hernandez
Titania: Sasha De Sola
Hippolyta: Sasha Mukhamedov
Pas de Deux: Frances Chung, Ulrik Birkkjaer

Rachel Howard's review of the production.

Edited by pherank
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I was on YouTube listening to some interviews that d'Amboise did during the last decade of his life, and in this one, intereviewed by Wendy Whelan (and mostly observed by his son, Christopher) at Studio5 in City Center.  In it, he said that Balanchine choreographed the male role in the Divertissement Pas de Deux for him, but that he had a money-making gig at the time, and his "understudy," Conrad Ludlow, danced the premiere.  He said it wasn't the only time this happened.  (Christopher Stowell got to dance the premiere of the Gigue in Mozartiana in place of Victor Castelli, but not for the same reason, which I've forgotten in the years since I read Robert Maiorano's book on the making of.)


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Thanks, Helene, and some more.

“His quietly expert handling of Miss Farrell in the ballet’s tumbled lifts recalls his reputation as one of the most secure and sensitive partners around. 

(Washington Post)

"The man lived LARGE and with the most open and loving heart."

(Harrison Coll, a dancer at New York City Ballet in Dance Magazine) (Thanks again to Jan McNulty for these)


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I've made comparisons here between this work and the White Swan Duet from "Swan Lake," which I still consider to be two of ballet's finest masterpieces. Although not a duet, it's a solo, I would also include Fokine's "The Swan" as one of the finest.

I've never really tried to analyse the 'magic' of the White Swan duet, but while watching a video of an older and extremely lovely performance by the Mariinsky's Oxana Skorik, I felt that the remarkable sculpture achieved by the ballerina, is certainly a key element. In the duet from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" airiness seems to be essential.  Allegra Kent floats -- 'tiptoeing,' feet fluttering,  Jacques d'Amboise lifting. It fits so well with the enchanting Mendelssohn music and Shakespeare's dreamlike allusions.

Added: In both these works, Expression is certainly essential -- the Aura of Enchantment created by the White Swan ballerina and the Character Voyage of the Midsummer Night's Dream interpreter.  


Edited by Buddy
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