Dance Entertainment

Allegra Kent Conjures ‘Messages From the Air, the Environment’

03ALLEGRA SLEEPWALKER 02 plzc facebookJumbo

It was the primary ballet that made sense to her. There was thriller, ardour, ache. The music, by Vittorio Rieti, after themes from Bellini operas, swept her into one other world.

“I used to be 11,” stated Allegra Kent. “My coronary heart was damaged.”

Kent, the previous New York Metropolis Ballet principal, was only a little one when she attended a efficiency by Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in Los Angeles. The ultimate work on this system was “Evening Shadow,” George Balanchine’s 1946 ballet, later known as “La Sonnambula.”

Kent had no concept who Balanchine was. However simply 4 years later, she would be a part of New York Metropolis Ballet, the corporate he had fashioned with Lincoln Kirstein. And never lengthy after that, in 1960, Balanchine revived the ballet, casting Kent as its mysterious Sleepwalker.

This season, as a part of the corporate’s seventy fifth anniversary, Kent, 86, was introduced in as a visitor coach for “La Sonnambula,” which returns Wednesday for 4 performances, and for “The Unanswered Question,” the gripping second motion of “Ivesiana.”

Kent wasn’t with the corporate from its 1948 begin, however she was nonetheless part of its early days and one in all Balanchine’s most essential muses.

She joined Metropolis Ballet at 15, only a 12 months after she arrived in New York from California to check on the company-affiliated College of American Ballet. Balanchine gave her a scholarship, and shortly after, she started attending performances.

“The primary ballet I noticed on the primary program was ‘Serenade,’” she stated, referring to the Balanchine masterpiece in an interview at her Manhattan residence. “I can’t bear in mind the opposite ballets as a result of it was like, ‘Serenade’ — the entire world is open.”

Ultimately “La Sonnambula,” with its magic and tragedy, got here her approach. On this haunting ballet, the Poet hero romances a lady, the Coquette, earlier than discovering a Sleepwalker at a masked ball. Holding a candle, the Sleepwalker skims throughout the stage in close-knit bourrée steps on pointe carrying a flowing gown. Its diaphanous sleeves, like wings, catch the air as they stream behind her.

The Coquette’s jealousy leads the Baron, the host of the ball, to stab the Poet; the Sleepwalker, devastated, carries him away. With the suitable dancers, the ballet is gut-wrenching, but it surely takes creativeness born from nearly psychic sensations. The heroine could also be strolling in her sleep, however “she’s not expressionless,” Kent stated. “You may’t are available in like a zombie.”

Within the pas de deux, the Sleepwalker glides previous the Poet, who geese beneath her candle; he waves his hand in entrance of her face to see if she is awake; he falls to the ground in her path, however she steps over his outstretched physique, unruffled, and continues on her approach. There needs to be daring, too: On tour in Moscow, Balanchine demonstrated one of many Sleepwalker’s crossings on a stage that Kent stated was like a soccer discipline.

“He took the candle and ran on the diagonal,” she stated. “In these days, that they had footlights. He stepped over the footlight and stopped. I believed, Oh, my God, he’s going to die” — plunging off the stage. “However he didn’t die. He stepped again and gave the candle to me.”

He was exhibiting her, in essence, how the Sleepwalker possesses a layer of additionalsensory notion; that what can’t be seen could be felt, and that even in a sudden cease — as he did himself on that stage — there needs to be no bodily reverberation.

“Balanchine cherished hazard,” Kent stated. “Within the step in ‘The Unanswered Query’ when she slowly goes again” — the ballerina, once more in white and held aloft, falls into the arms of 4 males obscured by darkness — “the viewers is terrified for a second. So that is the genius of Balanchine. Ah! She’s going to run off the stage! She’s going to fall over backward! Is anybody going to catch her?”

The unique Sleepwalker — and the one Kent first noticed all these a few years in the past — was the good ballerina Alexandra Danilova. Kent herself was briefly coached by Danilova not within the studio, however in an opportunity assembly, ready for the 104 bus on Broadway. “She stood up and began demonstrating on the bus cease,” Kent stated. “Gosh, what a second.”

Rehearsing at Metropolis Ballet’s studios with Unity Phelan and Taylor Stanley, who will carry out the Sleepwalker and the Poet in a single solid, Kent was intensely ethereal, acutely centered, with fingers energetic. She stated, “You’re getting messages from the air, the ambiance.”

Kent turned to the mirror to check their reflection as if it have been a portray. Together with her elbows raised, her fingertips curving towards her chest, she labored on particulars — as many as she may. She was making an attempt, it appeared, to penetrate under the floor of the pores and skin, to attract uncooked emotion into the motion. Particulars are essential to Kent, as they have been to Balanchine. He would come backstage and say, “‘Oh, your crown is half an inch too far again,’” she stated. “‘Deliver it ahead.’ I imply, it’s not even the hair, it’s simply the crown. Particulars.”

Kent stood in entrance of Phelan, who held the candle with a curved arm as the opposite prolonged to the aspect. Kent rested her elegant fingers on Phelan’s shoulders — only a whisper of stress — and stared at their reflection within the mirror. “Don’t search for,” she stated, releasing her palms.

“You’re sleepwalking, however you’re conscious,” Kent stated. “You’re in one other realm however there’s one thing happening inside you. A fantastic tragedy that’s not defined.”

Phelan, who danced the Sleepwalker in a earlier season, is approaching the function in a different way now. Her Sleepwalker moved too ahead from the chest, however with Kent’s assist, she is engaged on enjoyable, softening. “You may nonetheless be lively, but when it will get all tense then it seems to be such as you’re placing on a present as an alternative of it coming from a real place,” Phelan stated later. “If I’m simply being myself and actively doing one thing, I’m not sensing every part in my physique. In order that’s what I’m making an attempt to carry it again to.”

When she first danced the Sleepwalker, Phelan wished to show that she may very well be ghostly, waiflike, mild. “What I’ve found from Allegra is that I could have been going too far with that,” she stated. “You let your self be concerned emotionally. I feel I used to be making an attempt to remain so disassociated.”

When the Sleepwalker comes onstage, she’s not simply taking brisk walks on pointe. She’s looking. “We don’t know what it’s — if it’s a baby, if it’s a love,” Kent stated. “But it surely’s an enormous factor lacking. It’s an enormous urgency. However past that, there’s a lot thriller. There’s a large lack in her life.”

Stanley, rehearsing the second when the Poet waves his hand in entrance of the Sleepwalker’s face to see if she is awake, was too dynamic. Kent stepped in to exhibit. “Simply the tiny forwards and backwards over my eyes,” Phelan stated, “together with her hand being that near my face, I noticed all of the vitality. She wasn’t shaking. Nothing was taking place. However every part was alive in her hand. I used to be like, that’s what she means.”

There’s nothing informal about “La Sonnambula,” which Kent says is like no different Balanchine ballet. “I used to do that night time after night time in my lounge simply to get that despair and the subtleties,” Kent stated. “That search. It is a ‘Sleeping Magnificence’ within the Balanchine type. The kiss doesn’t wake her up.”

Kent, together with her cheerful wit, summed up her personal “Sonnambula” expertise: “That is what I’d say: Thanks, Balanchine,” she stated. “Thanks, Madame Danilova. And I thank the M.T.A., the metropolitan transit authority. The generosity of her and the generosity of the bus being late.”