Allegra Kent, legendary ballerina and muse of George Balanchine and Joseph Cornell, started studying ballet at 11, with Bronislava Nijinska and Carmelita Maracci, in Los Angeles. At 14, she came to New York as a scholarship student at The School of American Ballet. The following year, George Balanchine invited her to join the New York City Ballet, where she danced for the next 30 years. Her intellect, talent, and personal qualities, both innocent and sensual, led Balanchine to create many roles for her and Cornell to create several of his boxes and collages with her image. Her Balanchine roles included the breathtaking airborne figure in "The Unanswered Question" section of Ivesiana, where she represented the elusive ideal. Balanchine created Bugaku, one of his most unusual ballets, for her and Edward Villella. Mr. B revived The Seven Deadly Sins and La Sonnambula for her. She also danced leading roles in his Apollo, Concerto Barocco, Agon, Scotch Symphony, and Symphony in C, among many masterpieces. She was a huge audience favorite, by turns sensual, delicate, and electrifying.
Jerome Robbins created roles for her in Dances at a Gathering and Dumbarton Oaks, and he cast her in other ballets, including his Afternoon of a Faun and The Concert. When the New York City Ballet was invited to Russia, in 1962, Allegra's dazzling performances made such an impression that they are still discussed today.
Currently a teacher at Barnard College, Allegra is the author of several critically acclaimed books, including her autobiography, Once a Dancer. . .and her first book for children, Ballerina Swan, which has recently leapt from the page onto the stage, courtesy of Making Books Sing. In 2009, she was a recipient of a Dance Magazine Award. She writes frequently for Dance and has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Vogue, and Allure. Most recently, she has contributed an essay to The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. She lives in New York City.