Julie Kent
Kent reviews ballet scenes in 2020
Julie Cox

1969 (age 54–55)
OccupationBallet dancer
Years active1985–present
SpouseVictor Barbee
Current groupThe Washington Ballet
Former groupsAmerican Ballet Theatre

Julie Kent (born Julie Cox, 1969)[1] is an American ballet dancer; she was a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre from 1993 to June 2015. In 2016, she was named the artistic director of The Washington Ballet.[2] She became co-artistic director at the Houston Ballet in July 2023.

Early life

She was born Julie Cox in Bethesda, Maryland. Her father was a nuclear physicist and her mother, who is from New Zealand, was a ballet dancer and later flight attendant. She started ballet at age eight.[3] She trained with Hortensia Fonseca at the Academy of the Maryland Youth Ballet. She also spent summers attending intensives at American Ballet Theatre II and School of American Ballet.[4] She took the stage name Julie Kent at the suggestion of Mikhail Baryshnikov.[1]


Julie Kent with Marcelo Gomes in 2007

Kent joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1985, as an apprentice. The following year, she competed at the Prix de Lausanne, and was the only American to win any medal that year. Later that year, she became a member of the corps de ballet. In 1990, Kent was promoted to soloist. In 1993, she was named principal dancer, she also became the first American to win the Erik Bruhn Prize that year. In 2000, she received the Prix Benois de la Danse, and is the first American to win the prize.[4]

Throughout her dance career, she has danced works by Marius Petipa, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan and John Cranko. She has created roles in works by John Neumeier, Twyla Tharp, Alexei Ratmansky, Nacho Duato and Stanton Welch. She has made guest appearances in Russia, Italy, Germany, Australia, Argentina and Chile.[4] Kent was one of José Manuel Carreño's partners in Swan Lake, his farewell performance, with Kent as Odette and Gillian Murphy as Odile.[5]

In 2015, Kent retired from dancing. Her farewell performance was Romeo and Juliet, with Roberto Bolle as her Romeo. Having danced with ABT for 29 years, she is the longest-serving principal dancer in the company's history.[6] Following her retirement, she became the artistic director of ABT's summer program, with over 1,000 students training in various locations across the country.[7]

In March 2016, The Washington Ballet announced Kent would assume the role of artistic director, succeeding Septime Webre.[2] During her tenure, she has commissioned 26 new works, including works by Gemma Bond and Ethan Stiefel. She also staged The Sleeping Beauty alongside Victor Barbee.[4][8][9]

In October 2022, it was announced that Kent was set to leave Washington Ballet at the end of the 2022-23 season.[10] In July 2023, she became an artistic director at the Houston Ballet, alongside current artistic director Stanton Welch.[11]

Selected repertoire

Kent's repertoire with the American Ballet Theatre includes:[12]

Created roles



Film appearances

Along with Mikhail Baryshnikov, she starred in Herbert Ross' 1987 film Dancers. She was chosen after Baryshnikov saw her audition for ABT.[3]

In Nicholas Hytner's 2000 film Center Stage she played principal dancer Kathleen Donahue, with original choreography by Susan Stroman. The film also stars her ABT colleagues Ethan Stiefel and Sascha Radetsky.

Personal life

Kent is married to Victor Barbee, former ABT Principal Dancer and Associate Artistic Director and currently The Washington Ballet Associate Artistic Director. They are the parents of two children.[4][13]


  1. ^ a b "Teen Ballerina Julie Kent Is Baryshnikov's New Leading Lady". People Magazine. November 30, 1987.
  2. ^ a b Kaufman, Sarah L. (7 March 2016). "ABT star Julie Kent is Washington Ballet's new artistic director". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b "90: "The Dancer" - Julie Kent". The Lookinglass. 3 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Julie Kent". The Washington Ballet. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  5. ^ "'Swan Lake' at the Met". New York Times. 2 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Review: Three 'Romeo and Juliet' Performances, Including Julie Kent's Farewell". New York Times. 21 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Julie Kent Has New Roles at American Ballet Theater". New York Times. 2 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Taking Flight: Julie Kent at Washington Ballet". New York Times. 23 May 2015.
  9. ^ Hernández, Javier C. (21 October 2022). "Julie Kent, Renowned Former Ballerina, Will Lead Houston Ballet". New York Times.
  10. ^ Kaufman, Sarah L. (21 October 2022). "Washington Ballet artistic director Julie Kent is stepping down". Washington Post.
  11. ^ Wozny, Nancy (17 October 2023). "Julie Kent and Stanton Welch Talk About Their New Co-Directorship at Houston Ballet". Pointe Magazine.
  12. ^ "Julie Kent". American Ballet Theatre. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016.
  13. ^ "Victor Barbee". The Washington Ballet. Retrieved 30 April 2020.