After growing up on three semirural acres outside Buffalo, Linda Kent (BS ’68, dance) came to Juilliard, and shortly before graduation, she joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. After seven years there, she was with the Paul Taylor Dance Company for 14 years. It was her connection with Taylor (BS ’53, dance) that brought Kent back to Juilliard. In 1984 Martha Hill (founding director of the Dance Division; faculty 1951-95) asked her to stage Taylor’s Cloven Kingdom for the spring concert. Kent then joined the faculty, and she has staged Taylor’s works here more than a dozen times—including this month, with the freshmen (see below)—as well as all over the world. She and her husband, whom she met when she was a student at Juilliard, live in northern Manhattan, and their son, Rory “aka Best Present Ever,” is a senior at Purchase College.
Where else have you taught?
I’ve been on the faculty of the Paul Taylor School and the Ailey/Fordham BFA program, and a visiting faculty member at Wake Forest University and the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana. I was also the first modern dance teacher at the Bolshoi School in Moscow, and for 13 years I was director of dance at Perry-Mansfield in Steamboat Springs, Colo. I also give master classes and intensives at studios across the U.S.
When did you first know you wanted to be a dancer and how did you come to know it?
I began modern dance classes at age 7 and loved the challenges.
Who was the teacher or mentor who most inspired you when you were growing up?
Seenie Rothier was my first teacher and a great revealer of possibilities. We ran and leaped and fell and tried to find movement to be a color or a cloud gatherer. As I grew older, dance satisfied me intellectually and physically and spiritually, and I realized that this was something I had to do.
What dance performance have you attended that changed the way you think about dance?
For three summers in high school, I attended Jacob’s Pillow. There I first encountered the companies of Donald McKayle (Juilliard faculty 1962-64) and Alvin Ailey. This was the kind of dancing I wanted to do—it was about human beings and their joys and passions.
What are the three biggest changes at Juilliard since you were a student here?
1. With a residence hall, Juilliard is no longer a commuter school
2. Presidents who fully support the Dance Division
3. The establishment of the Summer Dance Intensive
What are three things that have remained the same?
The level of excellence and opportunity in the Dance Division says it all.
What are your non-dance related interests or hobbies?
I am a voracious consumer of contemporary fiction. The New York Times crossword puzzle saves me every day on the subway. I love going to the beach and I love to bake.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
At age 10, my first dance partner was Mickey DiFiglia (aka theater director Michael Bennett).
Did you ever think of becoming something other than a dancer?
What are you reading/watching?
I just finished reading Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink, and my husband and I are addicted to Dancing With the Stars—we even go to see it on tour.
What advice would you give a non-dance person attending a dance performance?
Let yourself respond to it, don’t worry about “figuring it out.”
What are you up to this summer?
I’ll be teaching—including in Chicago and at Juilliard’s Summer Dance Intensive, taking part in the scholarship audition process for the New York City Dance Alliance, and working on various Taylor stagings.
Tell us about the project you’re working on with the first-years this spring.
When Paul Taylor died in August, Alicia Graf Mack (director of the Dance Division) and I thought we could honor him by presenting excerpts from three of his most iconic works: the elegant mania of Cloven Kingdom, the bravura opening of Arden Court, and daredevil finale of Esplanade.
Is there anything you would like to add?
With lots of laughter, gasping for breath, bruises and floor burns, our first-year dancers are giving joyous life to Paul’s work. Come enjoy their explorations in the Choreographic Honors performances.
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