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From left: Allegra Kent, Kay Mazzo, Gloria Govrin, Merrill Ashley and Wendy Whelan. Eduard Patino, Courtesy NDI.

On Monday evening, four 20th century New York City Ballet stars joined Wendy Whelan in conversation for an event titled Balanchine's Ballerinas hosted by National Dance Institute, the dance education organization that former NYCB dancer Jacques d'Amboise founded in 1976. D'Amboise introduced the four ballerinas taking the stage as dancers who "graced Balanchine and were graced by him." Hearing the ensuing conversation between Wendy Whelan and Allegra Kent, Kay Mazzo, Gloria Govrin and Merrill Ashley proved just that; the sense of inspiration that George Balanchine gleaned from his muses, and the deep appreciation he had for each individual's unique traits.

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Former New York City Ballet dancer Kurt Froman is best known for training celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence for dance roles on film. Yet Froman's Instagram has become our newest obsession for a whole other reason. Over the past few months, Froman has been posting rarely-seen clips of old NYCB rehearsal and performance videos. These videos feature Balanchine dancers from the early days, such as Suzanne Farrell, Arthur Mitchell, Karin von Aroldingen, Allegra Kent and Jacques d'Amboise as well as recently retired stars like Damian Woetzel, Darci Kistler, Peter Boal, Wendy Whelan and Lourdes Lopez. The videos are majority of works by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins (often in honor of his centennial this year), mixed in with a few television features on Balanchine.

If, like us, you're prone to geeking out over ballet history, you might want to set aside the rest of your afternoon (ahem, week) to dive in. We've posted some of our favorites below.

Allegra Kent and Jacques d'Amboise in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, early 1960s.

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New York City Ballet's Joseph Gordon and Tiler Peck in "Fancy Free." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

One of the titans among choreographers of the 20th century, Jerome Robbins will be celebrated by a number of ballet companies worldwide in 2018 for the centennial of his birth. He died in 1998 at age 79 after a prolific career. His rare talent enabled him to direct and choreograph Broadway hits (West Side Story, On the Town and Fiddler on the Roof, among many) and to create sublime ballets, such as Afternoon of a Faun for New York City Ballet; Fancy Free (his first ballet) for American Ballet Theatre; and NY Export: Opus Jazz for his short-lived troupe Ballets: U.S.A.


Jerome Robbins. Photo Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

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Tanaquil Le Clercq at the 1967 book signing. Reprinted with permission from Dance Magazine.

Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq may have been known for her long-limbed dancing and versatile grace, but it turns out that her renown didn't end there. In 1967 the former New York City Ballet star published The Ballet Cook Book, a mix of ballet history, food stories and the pièce de résistance: recipes collected from over 90 famous NYCB dancers and choreographers including George Balanchine (her then husband), Jacques d'Amboise, Melissa Hayden and Allegra Kent.

Why bring this up now? This year marks the 50th anniversary of her book's publication, and in celebration, food scholar Meryl Rosofsky is curating a program exploring the context of the book. Held on November 5 and 6 at the Guggenheim Museum, the program will include live performance excerpts with roles originated by Ballet Cook Book contributors including Balanchine's The Four Temperaments, Bugaku, Stars and Stripes and Western Symphony as well as a panel conversation with d'Amboise and Kent (both of whom were at the original book signing) and current NYCB principals Jared Angle and Adrian Danchig-Waring, both talented cooks.That certainly seems like plenty of excitement to us, but attendees can also stop into the Guggneheim's Wright Restaurant to taste select dishes from The Ballet Cook Book including Le Clercq's Chicken Vermouth, Balanchine's Slow Beet Borschok, Hayden's Potato Latkes and Kent's Walnut Apple Cake.

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New York City Ballet luminary Allegra Kent's delightful children's book, Ballerina Swan, was a hit with fans and critics when it came out last year. Now the tale of Sophie, a swan who dreams of becoming a ballerina, is coming to the New York City stage. Making Books Sing's production of Ballerina Swan opens November 9 at Theater 3 on 43rd St—and it features Edward Villella as the voice of Mr. Balletski, the choreographer who gives Sophie a chance. Pointe spoke with Kent about her book's new incarnation.

How did Ballerina Swan become a play?
Barbara Krieger, the director of Making Books Sing, loved the book, and was inspired to recreate it onstage. This version will be sung and danced, and Sophie is going to be a puppet. I'm wildly excited about it—I mean, I get wildly excited very easily, but this is special!

How does Sophie the puppet work?
She has wings and a long, long neck—she's larger than a real swan, and very expressive. A dancer stands behind her, and she does the dance movements, and Sophie dances along with her. I'm so looking forward to seeing Sophie flapping and flying onstage.

Why did you think of Edward Villella as Mr. Balletski?
Well, Mr. Balletski is actually supposed to be Mr. Balanchine, and Edward of course worked with the real Mr. Balletski for decades, as did I. Edward has a real ear for recreating Balanchine's voice, too.

Are you thinking of doing a sequel to Ballerina Swan?
Perhaps. Right now I have another children's book in mind. It would follow a day in the life of a ballerina getting ready for the stage: her alarm clock rings, she packs her dance bag, she goes to the stage door, she goes up to her dressing room, she takes class, she goes for a costume fitting—everything of that nature. But Sophie may make another appearance, though not immediately.

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