Jacques d’Amboise, an Early Male Star of City Ballet, Dies at 86

Jacques d’Amboise, who shattered stereotypes about male dancers as he helped popularize ballet in America and have become one of essentially the most distinguished male stars at New York City Ballet, died on Sunday at his residence in Manhattan. He was 86.His daughter, the actress and dancer Charlotte d’Amboise, stated the trigger was problems of a stroke.Mr. d’Amboise embodied the perfect of an all-American type that mixed the nonchalant magnificence of Fred Astaire with the classicism of the danseur noble. He was the primary male star to emerge from City Ballet’s affiliated School of American Ballet, becoming a member of the corporate’s corps at the age of 15 in 1949, and his expansive presence and flexibility have been central to the corporate’s id in its first many years.He had 24 roles choreographed for him and have become the foremost interpreter of the title function in George Balanchine’s seminal “Apollo” earlier than retiring from the corporate in 1984, just a few months shy of his fiftieth birthday. He additionally choreographed 17 works for City Ballet, in addition to many items for the scholars of National Dance Institute, a program he based and directed.Mr. d’Amboise’s power, athleticism, infectious smile (which the critic Arlene Croce as soon as likened to the Cheshire Cat’s) and boy-next-door enchantment endeared him to audiences and elevated ballet’s enchantment for boys in a world of tutus and pink toe footwear.He additionally helped deliver ballet to broader audiences, dancing on Ed Sullivan’s show (then known as “Toast of the Town”), taking part in essential roles in a number of Nineteen Fifties film musicals, together with “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Carousel,” and performing in interesting “Americana” ballets, like Lew Christensen’s “Filling Station” and Balanchine’s “Who Cares?” He additionally directed, choreographed and wrote a quantity of dance movies within the early Nineteen Eighties.Although Mr. d’Amboise was by no means thought of a virtuoso dancer, his repertoire was demanding and exceptionally broad, starting from the princely “Apollo” to the swashbuckling Head Cowboy of Balanchine’s “Western Symphony.” He was one of the corporate’s most interesting companions, the cavalier to the ballerinas Maria Tallchief, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent and Suzanne Farrell, amongst many others.Mr. d’Amboise, Clive Barnes wrote in The New York Times in 1976, “isn’t just a dancer, he’s an establishment.”Mr. d’Amboise was astonished when Balanchine invited him to affix City Ballet in 1949, a yr after the corporate started its first season. He was 15 years old. “I can’t do it, I’ve to complete college,” he recalled considering, in his autobiography, “I Was a Dancer” (2011). His father suggested him to grow to be a stagehand, however his mom was delighted by the thought, and Mr. d’Amboise left college to bounce professionally, as did his sister Madeleine, recognized professionally as Ninette d’Amboise.Although Balanchine was usually extra excited by creating roles for his feminine dancers than for his male performers, Mr. d’Amboise recognized with many key roles that Balanchine created in ballets like “Western Symphony” (1954), “Stars and Stripes” (1958), “Jewels” (1967), “Who Cares” (1970) and “Robert Schumann’s Davidsbundlertanze” (1980). Early in his profession he additionally created roles in ballets by John Cranko and Frederick Ashton and gained reward for them. (“Balanchine was peeved” concerning the Cranko fee, he wrote in his autobiography.)In a 2018 interview, the City Ballet dancer Adrian Danchig-Waring described the qualities that Mr. d’Amboise had embodied as a dancer: “There’s this machismo that’s generally required onstage — that bravura, that swagger, that confidence, and all of us must study to domesticate that, and but it’s such an enormous canon of work. Within that, there are poets and dreamers and animals. Jacques is a reminder that every one of that may be contained in a single physique.”Mr. d’Amboise was born Joseph Jacques (*86*) on July 28, 1934, in Dedham, Mass., a suburb of Boston, to Andrew and Georgiana (d’Amboise) (*86*). His father’s dad and mom have been immigrants from Galway, Ireland; his mom was French Canadian. In search of work, his dad and mom moved the household to New York City, the place his father discovered a job as an elevator operator at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The household settled in Washington Heights, in Upper Manhattan. To preserve Jacques, as he was recognized, off the streets, his mom enrolled him, at age 7, and his sister Madeleine in Madam Seda’s ballet courses on 181st Street.After six months, the siblings moved to the School of American Ballet, based in 1934 by Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Energetic and athletic, Jacques took to the bodily challenges of ballet instantly, and after lower than a yr was chosen by Balanchine for the function of Puck in a manufacturing of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”He wrote in his autobiography of how his mom’s determination had modified his life: “What an extraordinary factor for a avenue boy with mates in gangs. Half grew as much as grow to be policemen and the opposite half gangsters — and I turned a ballet dancer!”In 1946, his mom persuaded his father to vary the household title from (*86*) to d’Amboise. Her clarification, Mr. d’Amboise wrote in “I Was a Dancer,” was that the title was aristocratic and French and “sounds higher for the ballet.”After becoming a member of City Ballet, Mr. d’Amboise was quickly dancing solo roles, together with the lead in Lew Christensen’s “Filling Station,” which led to an invitation from the movie director Stanley Donen to affix the cast of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954).In 1956 he married the City Ballet soloist Carolyn George, who died in 2009. In addition to his daughter Charlotte, he’s survived by their two sons, George and Christopher, a choreographer and former City Ballet principal dancer; one other daughter, Catherine d’Amboise (she and Charlotte are twins); and 6 grandchildren. Two brothers and his sister died earlier than him.Mr. d’Amboise appeared in featured roles in two movies in 1956 — “Carousel,” showing alongside Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, and Michael Curtiz’s “The Best Things in Life are Free.” But he remained dedicated to ballet and to Balanchine.“People stated, ‘You could possibly be the subsequent Gene Kelly,’” Mr. d’Amboise stated in a 2011 interview with The Los Angeles Times. “I didn’t know if I might act, however I knew I could possibly be an amazing ballet dancer, and Balanchine put out the carpet for me.”His religion was rewarded when, in 1957, Balanchine revived his “Apollo,” the ballet that had marked his first collaboration with Igor Stravinsky, in 1928, and cast Mr. d’Amboise within the title function. For that manufacturing, Balanchine stripped away the unique elaborate costuming, dressing Mr. d’Amboise in tights and a easy fabric draped over one shoulder.It was a turning level in his profession; dancing, Mr. d’Amboise wrote, “turned a lot extra fascinating, an odyssey in direction of excellence.” The function, he felt, was additionally his story, as Balanchine had defined it to him: “A wild, untamed youth learns the Aristocracy via artwork.”Over the subsequent 27 years, Mr. d’Amboise continued to be a stalwart member of City Ballet, creating roles and showing in some of Balanchine’s most essential ballets, together with “Concerto Barocco,” “Meditation,” “Violin Concerto” and “Movements for Piano and Violin.”Encouraged by Balanchine, he additionally choreographed commonly for the corporate, though critiques of his work have been principally lukewarm. He wrote in his autobiography that each Balanchine and Kirstein had assured him that he would lead City Ballet in the future, however Peter Martins and Jerome Robbins took over the corporate after Balanchine’s loss of life in 1983.Mr. d’Amboise appeared to have been resigned to that end result: He retired from efficiency the subsequent yr and turned his attentions to National Dance Institute, which takes dance into public faculties and which he based in 1976.The institute grew out of the Saturday morning ballet classes for boys that Mr. d’Amboise started to show in 1964, motivated by wanting his two sons to study to bounce with out being the one boys within the class. The courses expanded to incorporate women and moved into quite a few public faculties.Now the objective is to supply free courses to all, regardless of the kid’s background or capacity. Today the institute teaches hundreds of New York City youngsters ages 9 to 14 and is affiliated with 13 dance institutes world wide. The institute, which has its headquarters in Harlem, the place Mr. d’Amboise lived, was profiled in Emile Ardolino’s 1983 Oscar-winning documentary, “He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’.”“This second chapter introduced one thing extra fulfilling than my profession as an particular person performer,” Mr. d’Amboise wrote in his autobiography. Recounting the story of a small boy who succeeded, after many makes an attempt, at mastering a dance sequence, he wrote: “He was on the way in which to discovering he might take management of his physique, and from that he can study to take management of his life.”For his contribution to arts schooling, Mr. d’Amboise acquired a 1990 MacArthur Fellowship, a 1995 Kennedy Honors Award and a New York Governor’s Award, amongst many different honors.He continued to assume of himself as a dancer all his life, however he was additionally a fervent New Yorker. Asked in a 2018 article in The Times the place he would really like his ashes scattered, he responded, “Spread me in Times Square or the Belasco Theater.”
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