NEW YORK CITY | “I always thought I would be either a doctor or an archaeologist or a crook,” said Jacques d’Amboise. Today, he is instead a legendary ballet star and educator to thousands of young dancers.

Jacques d’Amboise danced the title role in Apollo, a ballet by New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine. Having first choreographed it in 1928, Balanchine revived it in 1957. The role became one of the defining moments of d’Amboise’s career as critics lauded him as the “definitive Apollo,” according to the Paris Review.

The George Balanchine Foundation announced the addition of d’Amboise’s Apollo to its video archives series. This unique series is devoted to examining, in detail, selected passages of Balanchine’s most notable choreography. In a studio setting, originators or major interpreters of some of the choreographer’s greatest works teach, coach, demonstrate and discuss with dancers of today, roles they performed under Balanchine’s tutelage. The overall goal is the creation of an original “manuscript” that preserves not only the steps of the ballets, but the nuances, rhythms and intent of the choreography as conceived and taught by Balanchine himself.

Jacques d’Amboise dances the title role in “Apollo,” a ballet by New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine. Photo by Carolyn George

Jacques d’Amboise was, for over three decades, principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, and is recognized as one of the foremost interpreters of the role of Apollo.

In his autobiography I Was a Dancer, d’Amboise writes that he saw his own journey reflected in this signature role, described by its choreographer as depicting how “a wild, untamed youth learns nobility through art.”

For this coaching session he worked with NYCB principal dancers Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin. The pianist was Susan Walters, soloist with the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

The release of the Apollo video brings the video archives series to a total 56 (as of 2018). Edited masters are preserved in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and copies of these are made available to non-circulating research repositories for a nominal fee. Currently nearly 80 libraries around the world house these videos which are also available through the Alexander Street Press Dance in Video series.


Jacques d’Amboise in George Balanchine’s Apollo, 1963. D’Amboise was acclaimed by critics as “the definitive Apollo” for his interpretation of this 1928 ballet. In his autobiography, I Was a Dancer, d’Amboise writes that he saw his own journey reflected in this signature role, described by its choreographer as depicting how “a wild, untamed youth learns nobility through art.” (Photograph by John Dominis.)

 

Nancy Reynolds, dance historian, writer, and the foundation’s director of research, conceived and continues to direct the program, assisted by Paul Boos, a rĂ©pĂ©titeur with the George Balanchine Trust, Virginia Brooks, independent filmmaker and film professor, and Gus Reed, a New York City based filmmaker. For a complete list of the George Balanchine Video Archives and the facilities housing them, please visit: http://balanchine.org/balanchine/03/gbfvideoarchives_videos.html

Balanchine—whose work epitomizes American ballet in general and New York modernism in particular—was born in 1904 in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he joined the Imperial Theater School and subsequently the illustrious Mariinsky Ballet. He began creating dances at 16 years old and later joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, where he performed and choreographed. In London, Balanchine met impresario Lincoln Kirstein, who convinced Balanchine to join him in New York to create an American company and school.

Balanchine’s passion for stories and legends are manifested in the enchanting A Midsummer Night’s Dream pas de deux, Apollo, and Scotch Symphony. He forged a path for modernism in ballet, including dances such as the plotless and sublime Serenade and two paradigms of modernism, Agon and The Four Temperaments. In his early career, budgets were a concern. Thus many of his ballets utilize simple leotards for costumes; austere stages are given shape and mood primarily by lighting.

The George Balanchine Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1983. Its mission is to create programs that educate the public and further the work and aesthetic of George Balanchine in order to facilitate high standards of excellence in dance and related arts

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