She’s the one I loved the most in Center Stage. Along with Gillian Murphy’s, I Illegally tore out her strong, mystical full-page photo as Sylvia from my Academy’s June 2005 copy of Pointe Magazine. As a teenager I added her to my made-up collage of older sisters in stardom (this fantasy sisterhood also included Rachael Leigh Cook, Natalie Portman, and Fairuza Balk).
With her long chestnut hair and slender fingers, she always captivated the screen and pages of Pointe. Now I see her as more than just a beautiful body moving across space and time. She’s knowledge. She’s power. She’s dedication. She’s Julie Kent, Artistic Director of the Washington Ballet. And she’s going to represent, reform, and rule with her experience and wisdom.
I won’t go into her history here. Nor will I compare her to the waif of a beauty that everyone’s obsessed with.
As awards go, in 1986 Kent was the only American to medal at Prix de Lausanne. She’s also the only female American to win Prix Benois de la Danse; also the same year (2000) Ferri won the Prix while at La Scala. See a pattern here? Julie Kent isn’t just an American born-and-bred ballerina. She’s always been a part of the larger universe of dance, the international collective where she does represent the U.S.
All of the decades of dancing in a major classical ballet company will translate to the decades of coaching. Coaching will be a major focus which will help build up their rep and quality. And she’s been coaching and teaching excessively through ABT’s summer intensives, so let’s not act like this will be 100% new to her. Her onstage life was only a fraction of her professional career. Along with Kent’s husband in the administration side, Xiomara Reyes will back her in Washington Ballet’s Academy, so that’s equally as important a deal, even though Reyes is less known to the general public, sadly.
Kent also brings a certain 21st century appeal even though her career spans the late 20th century. Center Stage nostalgia forever follows my generation. Social media will be an important area of focus in the years to come, so hopefully Kent will allocate some spending towards build their online presence and PR opportunities. Possible some chic partnerships with Washington businesses might occur since she’s keen on working with the fashion and art worlds. Or she might even bridging gaps between the East and West coasts? I’d love to see her welcome more professional and emerging choreographers from all coasts.
And, of course, equal opportunities in all levels of Washington Ballet will arrive in time, hopefully breaking the ceiling that has remained above major classical ballet companies. With a strong, empowering AD who happens to be a woman at the head of ballet, the sky’s the limit.
Someone once said beauty can save the world. What a great responsibility you have on your shoulders. It’s not politicians, or scientists, or technology, but beauty and humanity —which is so clear in dance—is the closest that we can get to that salvation, I think.”
It’s using a multitude of your talents together and focusing them in one direction that helps you to succeed and to move forward. It’s not just: you walk in and you’re really talented, and you’re a great success. You have to be a good listener, you have to be a good observer, you have to have a flexible lens to look at life in very small detail, and also step back and see a much greater, broader perspective.”
[Audiences during performances] All kinds of diversity in the best ways, and everyone seemed to be invested in the performance and take pride in that it was their company, which is exactly what we want to build on.”
This is the illegal photo I mentioned at the start of this post. I’ve pinned it to the walls of every single room I’ve had since high school. My copy is torn at the side and bent at the middle, but in some ways keeping this one-page photo represents years of my devotion to ballet just as much as Julie Kent’s. I eagerly look forward to her AD path in her professional career. And I hope I can see this company live one day.
More about Julie Kent: