Born in Santa Monica, California, Ms. Kent studied with Bronislava Nijinska and Carmelita Maracci before joining the School of American Ballet. After graduating, she joined the New York City Ballet in 1953 at the age of 17, and was promoted to principal dancer in 1957. Balanchine, inspired by her complexities as a dancer, i.e. her otherwordly stage presence, her innocent sensuality, her hyperactivity, her tendency to go outside technique to move in beautiful and strange ways, created ballets for her including Seven Deadly Sins, Ivesiana, and Bugaku. He also revived Night Shadow, renamed La Sonnambula, especially for Ms. Kent.
Successfully making the transition into maturity, Ms. Kent performed in such ballets as Serenade, Agon, and Dances at a Gathering. She retired from dancing in 1981 after a successful thirty year career with the New York City Ballet. In 1997, Ms. Kent published an autobiography titled “Once a Dancer”. Currently, she is a freelance teacher, a professor of dance at Barnard College, and helps coach a new generation of dancers for the George Balanchine Trust.