Once a Dancer...: An Autobiography

Allegra Kent, Author St. Martin's Press $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-15051-8
The dancing of ballerina Kent has been described as complex, even ""demonic."" In this memoir, Kent explains the tensions and conflicts behind her legendary performances with Balanchine's New York City Ballet. Kent, born in 1937, joined the company at age 15 and quickly became one of the favorites of ""Mr. B,"" who choreographed several dances for her, including ""The Unanswered Question"" (from Ivesiana). But Kent soon began a strange, career-long pattern of successes followed by self-imposed exiles from dance. The reasons behind her disappearances were usually bizarre: a botched plastic surgery undertaken despite her Christian Science beliefs; a disastrous marriage to photographer Bert Stern, promoted by Kent's mother to thwart any sexual involvement between Kent and Mr. B.; a willful decision to have three babies at the peak of her dancing fame; periods of overeating and weight gain that led Kent to discover water wings and to write Allegra Kent's Water Beauty Book. Although Kent's self-deprecating tone never matches the poetry of her dance, her autobiography offers wonderful sketches of her contemporaries-dancer Edward Villella, costumer Mme. Karinska and artist Joseph Cornwell, among many. It also grants a poignant look at the later years of a once-great ballerina, especially her need for income (""If you are calling to give me a job, I accept it""), her search for love through the personals (""Lyrically Limber Lollapalooza""... hopes to meet a man"") and, finally, her moving appreciation of what she once had: ""In real life, I was a sleepwalker-dance my only light."" Photos. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-312-18750-7
Paperback - 343 pages - 978-0-8130-3440-9
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