Ballerina Allegra Kent danced almost all the principal roles choreographed by George Balanchine in her remarkable career, which lasted far beyond when most dancers retired from the stage. Born Iris Margo Cohen, she was pressured by her mother to change her name and undergo plastic surgery to seem less Jewish. Despite this, her presence onstage was wholly her own, with Balanchine remarking when she joined the New York City Ballet at age fifteen in 1952, “I have never seen such raw talent.” He choreographed Ivesiana for her in 1954 and she soon became a principal dancer for the corps. Unusually for a dancer, she continued her career with only brief hiatuses for the births of her three children, in shows ranging from the groundbreaking Episodes in 1959 to the Japanese-style erotic ballet Bugaku in 1963. During a tour of the USSR in 1962, she danced at the Kremlin and performed to awestruck audiences. After her divorce, she continued to dance for the NYCB and coach students while raising three children as a single mother. At age fifty she came out of retirement to dance in John Clifford’s Notturno and she continues to teach at dance at Barnard. She published her autobiography, Once a Dancer, in 1997.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Allegra Kent." (Viewed on February 22, 2018) <https://jwa.org/people/kent-allegra>.