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Chancellor John Mauceri introduces speaker Julie Kent.



WINSTON-SALEM -- "One of the greatest ballet dancers in the world" told high school graduates at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) that their work will affect the world.

Introduced by Chancellor John Mauceri, who presided over the high school commencement ceremonies on May 19 at the Stevens Center, American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Julie Kent was adamant: "You can make a difference in the world simply by trying."

She urged the graduates to spend their time "in the pursuit of excellence, because excellence is only attained when its is made a priority, and it is the only thing that will make the world a better place. ...

"I feel compelled to warn you that the life of an artist is not an easy one," she continued. "You must be courageous, you must be bold."

Wherever your art leads you, she said, "It is how you accomplish your goals that makes a difference."

Kent said she was glad to know the students and their parents invested in their education, because "knowledge is essential. ... You go forth and prosper. You take it all with you ... because all these experiences gave you something. In a word: Knowledge."

"There's not one overwhelming talent that brings you success," she added, but "many."

The fact that the seniors are graduating from the first state-supported performing arts school in the nation "stands as a testament to your talent and your hard work," she said.

"This institution has a special place in my heart," she added, because her husband, Victor Barbee, ABT associate artistic director, and his brother, Vincent Barbee, both graduated from the School of the Arts, as well as numerous friends.

Julie Kent's career with ABT has spanned 25 years and dozens of principal roles. She is widely recognized as one of the world's most accomplished and famous dancers. She will be seen June 4-9, 2012, with Marcelo Gomes in a new ABT production of Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera House:

Kent was recently seen on the stage of the Stevens Center, dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in two performances of UNCSA’s annual production of The Nutcracker.

Julie Kent began her dance training with Hortensia Fonseca at the Academy of the Maryland Youth Ballet. She attended the American Ballet Theatre II Summer session and the School of American Ballet before joining American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in 1985. In that same year, Kent won first place in the regional finals of the National Society of Arts and Letters at the Kennedy Center. In 1986, she was the only American to win a medal at the Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition, and she became a member of ABT’s corps de ballet. She was appointed a Soloist with ABT in 1990 and a Principal Dancer in 1993, the year in which she won the Erik Bruhn Prize in Toronto. In April 2000, Kent won the “Prix Benois de la Danse.” She starred in the motion picture DANCERS (1987), directed by Herbert Ross, and CENTER STAGE (2000), directed by Nicholas Hytner.

Kent received an honorary doctorate at the ceremony.

One-hundred and fourteen high school students graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts on May 19.

Also at the ceremony, UNCSA Ladies in Arts Senior Essay Winner Tori Hall presented her winning essay.

Scenes from the day follow.


Commencement 2012 Photos

Julie Kent receives an honorary doctorate from UNCSA.

Ms. Kent addresses graduating seniors.

Ally Fion, Chair of High School Student Leadership Board, addresses her classmates.

UNCSA's finest on duty. Every UNCSA graduation at the Stevens Center spills out onto Fourth Street following the ceremonies.