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Once a Dancer: An Autobiography
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Once a Dancer: An Autobiography

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  285 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Allegra Kent joined the New York City Ballet at the age of fifteen and, only two years later, inspired Balanchine's unforgettable The Unanswered Question. Beautiful, sensuous, and mysterious, she quickly became an essential Balanchine dancer-and the story of her personal life is as dramatic as they story of her rise to fame. Her account of a bizarre childhood, a magnificen
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 15th 1998 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 1st 1997)
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Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You know, I feel like my system for giving stars is totally arbitrary. What’s the criterion? Anyway, I'm rating this one strictly on my level of enjoyment. This was a really engaging read. I was totally sucked in and stayed up late to get my fix. In a lot of ways Allegra Kent's story is very tragic--so many of her decisions weren't based on her own intuition and desire, but on the advice of others, which almost never works out well. Her youth was squandered because she ignored her own inner voic ...more
Jan 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Another autobiography from a Balanchine dancer. Kent could have been a writer in another life. She's weird and fascinating. She seems to exist in sort of this half world between reality and total absurdity. She has strange observations about people and writes in weird metaphors. Her writing is intricate and extremely intimate. I kind of like her. As a dancer, I would describe her as "far out" in a totally 60s sense of the word. She's always pushing beyond her limits, every extension heads into o ...more
Mar 15, 2018 rated it liked it
An entertaining autobiography by one of the Balanchine Dancers. Very interesting stories of her personal and professional life.
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ballet, bio-memoir
The Muse-of-Balanchine oeuvre keeps getting better and better. Kent's autobiography is bananas, but in an extravagant, amazing way. Kent is a woman with a viewpoint, let's put it like that, and her writing (which I imagine is a reflection of her dancing) is full of idiosyncrasies, a cross between perfect storm and hot mess. But again, amazing.

I can't really describe the wonder of Allegra Kent, so I'll just leave some passages:

"Cornell sometimes addressed his letters to 'Miss Allegretta Kent,' be
This autobiography kept me consistently interested and entertained. Kent has a penchant for idiosyncratic but still highly readable prose; it's not so much, I think, that she's a true language-lover, but she's obviously very aware of the language surface and can play with alliteration and metaphor till the cows come home, albeit sometimes at the expense of sense. Unfortunately her great heyday with NYCB came before the explosion of ballet in the 70s and home video in the 80s, and thus I think I ...more
Jo Oehrlein
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: dance, non-fiction
Allegra Kent jointed the NYCB at age 15 and was a member of the company until just after Balanchine’s death. She was a principal within only a few years and danced to rave reviews on the company’s tour of the USSR. She peaked early, though, and rarely danced in later years. Her biography leaves you wondering what might have been if she hadn’t lost months to a botched nose job (trying to look less Jewish), lost a season to a tummy tuck, and spent wasted energy on a failed marriage (they separated ...more
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: strong-women
Danced for Ballanchine. He wrote ballets for her. Married to photographer Bert Stein. Three children while a ballerina. Many phobias and overeater when depressed. Didn't save her own money, but gave it to her husband who spent lavishly and was on "Vit B" shots (amphetamines). Domineering mother and Christian Scientist. Very dramatic writing style. Worked incredibly hard taking classes every day and massaging her muscles while in a split. Very intuitive and creative about inner workings of charac ...more
Rachel C.
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Memoirs of a Balanchine ballerina. A talented dancer but a bit of a mess offstage.

A great dance company needs an incubator to turn raw embryos into the polished material of dance. In the transforming warmth of the School of American Ballet, translucent whites and golden yolks hatched as swans, firebirds, enchanted fauns, and furies, indeed, Faberge eggs - the New York City Ballet Company's foreground and background, the body of the corps, and the soul of the ballerinas.
Lanae Hollenbeck
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
FINALLY FINISHED THIS BOOK!!!!!! It was really amazing, and a true story. I recommend this to everybody, it's really a great book and it shows you how appearances may not always be what the truly are. Plus it has alot about George Ballanchine in it as well because Allegra Kent was one of his principle ballerinas for about 40 years, and it gives you lots of insight into the ballet world. AMAZING BOOK.
Siobhan Burns
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it
I admit, I didn't quite finish this one -- Allegra is such a nut that you can get a little tired of her after a while, esp once she has retired from dancing. But there's tons of brilliantly entertaining stuff in here about Balanchine and the cast of equally nutsy characters in the world of New York City Ballet.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Allegra Kent is someone I want to have a drink with. She is smart and witty and graceful. While it was hard to watch her make mistake after mistake, she examines her life with honesty and with little regret, and I admire that. Her personality comes alive in this book.
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: dancer; those who enjoy memoirs
Allegra Kent is a treasure. Her writing is clear and quirky and emotional. Each anecdote is filled with her innerworkings and she comes across as a dancer who has made it to the other side of her career without bittnerness or remorse.
Apr 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ballet
Before I read this book, I had only seen/heard interviews with Allegra Kent and always thought she sounded like a bit of a flake. However, this book gave me a new found respect for her. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
Until recently, I knew nothing about dance, ballet in particular. Kent's constant, almost addictive physicality and her genteel poverty surprised me. This was one of the better memoirs I've read -- a window into a completely different world.
Jul 08, 2011 added it
Shelves: biography
She was raised by an unusual mother (they moved on her whim among other things) and she is an unusual but enchanting person. Superb dancer. Well-written and very readable. Another Balanchine dancer.
Jul 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
One of the better written, engaging autobiographies of the famous Balanchine Dancers.
Mar 10, 2013 rated it liked it
This book partially infuriated me but was well-written. Allegra is far too apprehensive!
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Choosing to be a ballet dancer makes for a very hard life. Interesting to read about all the things you need to do to keep your body in shape to do it.
Jun 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
The one thing that kept me reading was the desire for something great to happen to her. But there just never was. Slightly disapionting, but still an interesting life.
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Jun 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Autobiography lovers and dancers
A great insight into one of the most brilliant ballerina's life. She has a short, precise, almost non-linear way of writing that somehow conveys her life beautifully.
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
read this one in prep for senior project.
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved this! Highly recommend it.
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bios
It was excellent. She makes you understand what she went through as a woman and a dancer.
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
A glimpse into the life of ballet dancer, Allegra Kent. Engaging and beautiful. All aspiring dancers should read this book!
Monica Limas
rated it really liked it
Mar 07, 2016
rated it it was amazing
Aug 07, 2014
Heather Vaughan-southard
rated it really liked it
May 08, 2016
rated it it was amazing
Dec 23, 2012
Lise Petrauskas
rated it liked it
Mar 28, 2013
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