This past June, after 29 years with the company, ballerina Julie Kent danced her final performance with American Ballet Theater. On hand to witness her 23 minute long ovation were her husband and her two children, William and Josephine (see photo above).
As a prima-ballerina and a New York City mom, Julie Kent is imminently qualified to discuss the topic of raising gifted children, both from the prospective of a prodigy - and as a parent.
NY Gifted Education Examiner: As someone who was obviously a gifted child herself, what is your opinion on how parents can encourage and support their gifted children, whether it's in art, sports, academics or any other field?
Julie Kent: I have always followed my own parents' example in how they raised my siblings and myself. My mother recognized my potential as a young dancer, and she did all she could to facilitate any opportunity for study that would further that potential. But, always, without question, I felt that my well-being as a child came before anything else. In the end, that protection and security gave me the courage to start my professional career at the early age of 16. So now as a parent, it is very important that my children understand innately that their well-being and security is the greatest priority. Children with recognized talents are generally extremely focused and self-driven. So parents need to be aware of the role they play in balancing that drive, which for me gave me both comfort and confidence.
NYGEE: How did you go about selecting a school for your own children, based on their particular strengths and gifts? What tips do you have for other parents?
JK: Finding the right school for your child is a huge task. But it is always important to keep things in perspective. The private schools in our city are extraordinary and clearly offer excellent educations. In our search, we explored many options and followed the advice of our children's teachers, who identified the learning styles of both of our children. In the end, like all big decisions, we followed our instinct. Not only do our children love their schools with an affinity foreign to my experience, but I see clearly the investment to help every child, which is fundamentally important in any school.
NYGEE: This June, you retired from American Ballet Theater. Often, people who achieve their life's dream don't know what to do next. What lessons did you draw from the dance world in preparing for your Second Act, as it were?
JK: My long career as a dancer was in every way a dream come true! I can only say that after committing my life to an art form and an institution for so long, I developed a very strong bond on many levels. It is both my profession and my family. So for me, my post-performing interests lay in returning to my company the investment that was put into me 30 years ago! A great talent does not flourish unless it is guided, nurtured and shaped. I arrived at ABT as a naive, 16 year old aspiring ballet dancer, and over my years there, I developed into a Ballerina. This did not happen overnight, nor without hard work on my part and from many others that wanted me to succeed. My goals now are simply to give back what was given to me.
Stay tuned for Part #2 of our interview, where Julie Kent outlines what aspiring dancers need to do in order to qualify for ABT's elite summer training program, explains how her life in dance led naturally to becoming the brand ambassador for Hania By Anya Cole, and reveals why, despite her retirement, she'll be performing November 16 at the Guggenheim Museum for a cause near and dear to her heart. (Limited tickets available at: https://www.debra.org/Benefit2015.)
And to learn more about applying your child to private school in New York City, click here.