Goodbye, Julie Kent

June 18, 2015


Julie Kent became a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre in 1993, the year I was born. Tomorrow, she will take her final bow on my 22nd birthday. I say this not to emphasize her age — she simultaneously possesses agelessness and maturity in her dancing. I say it only to pay homage to the impact she has had on my life as a lover of dance.


In January of 2008, Kent wrote Dance Magazine’s very first “Why I Dance” column. She said:


It is a profound question…why do I dance? It is like asking, ‘Why do I breathe? Why do I laugh? Why do I cry?’ It’s so natural, so intricately connected to every aspect of my life for as long as I can remember.


Kent articulated something I had always felt but couldn’t quite express as a 14 year old. Her words immediately touched me, and I ripped her column (which back then was right in the middle of the issue!) out of the magazine to hang on my wall. From then on Kent was my favorite ballerina.


Since then, I’ve had the privilege of seeing Kent dance many times, admiring the eloquence of her movement as well as her language. Her subtlety brings emotional depth to the most technically challenging moments. Her dramatism gives life to each of the many protagonists she plays. Her love for her craft is contagious, and her dedication to perfection admirable. She embodies onstage what once so powerfully moved me in her writing on the page.


Kent’s “Why I Dance” still hangs on the wall of my childhood bedroom, and her words still inspire me. She goes on:


…But dancing and performing are different things. Dancing is just that – expressing your feelings through movement. It is for everyone; it is for your lifetime. Performing is an exchange; it has many layers and many complexities that can be exquisitely rewarding and challenging. Performing a dance is as personal as any art form could possibly be…


…But the rewards are immeasurable. Not only the gratification of striving to create something of profound beauty and then developing the freedom to express it fully, openly, and generously, but the entire journey – the people who come and go, the music, your partners, the audience, the theaters – this all becomes your life…


…Natasha Makarova, whom I greatly admire, once quoted in a note she wrote to me that ‘beauty could save the world.’ It is a dancer’s privilege to spend a lifetime aspiring to contribute something of true beauty to our world.


Thank you, Julie, for adding so much beauty to my world. I’ll miss you.