the Ballet
Ballet Encyclopedia

Jacques d'Amboise

born: 1934

Jacques d'Amboise was born in 1934 in Dedham, Massachusetts but grew up in Manhattan. His father, an Irishman from Boston, and his mother, a French-Canadian from Quebec, named the youngest of four children Joseph Ahearn, a name which he later changed to Jacques d'Amboise. He started dance at the age of seven because his mother wanted to keep him out of trouble and away from the gangs that were roaming the streets.

At the age of fifteen Jacques dropped out of school to dance with the New York City Ballet. By the age of seventeen he was promoted to Principal dancer of the company and had many ballets choreographed on him including Who Cares? by Balanchine. In 1954, d'Amboise received a special leave of absence from the New York City Ballet to be able to film the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in the role of Ephraim Pontabee, one of the brothers. Although he was recalled by the company before filming was completed however the film was still completed. We can also see him in two movies produced in 1956: The Best Things in Life Are Free as a specialty dancer and Carousel as Louise's dancing partner. Even with a very busy life, Jacques fell in love with a beautiful dancer named Carolyn George and married her the 1st of January 1956.

Jacques d'Amboise is also a choreographer. He choreographed for the New York City Ballet: The Chase in 1963 and Quatuor and Irish Fantasy in 1964. While still a Principal at the New York City Ballet d'Amboise founded the National Dance Institute to prove that arts have a unique power to engage and motivate young people. He wanted to offer a way for children to take charge of their lives and not turn to street gangs that are so present around them. Jacques said "Dance is the most immediate and accessible of the arts because it involves your own body. When you learn to move your body on a note of music, it's exciting. You have taken control of your body and, by learning to do that, you discover that you can take control of your life."

The Bates College in Lewiston, presented him with his first honorary Doctorate in 1978. After writing and publishing the book Teaching the Magic of Dance in 1983 Jacques retired from the New York City Ballet at the age of 50. A documentary about Jacques d'Amboise's work with the National Dance Institute, He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin', won him an Academy Award and six Emmy Awards in 1984. In 1986, he received another Honorary doctorate degree from the Boston College and the New York Governor's Award. The MacArthur Fellowship was awarded to him in 1990, the Kennedy Center Honors Award in 1995 and the National Medal of the Arts in 1998.

In May of 1999, at almost 65 years old, Jacques d'Amboise started a seven month trek on the Appalachian Trail to raise money for the National Dance Institute. He had choreographed a "Trail Dance" that he taught to anyone he met on the way that was willing to learn and asked them in return to teach it to two other people they knew and ask the same of them. The trek was filmed for a documentary by director John Avildsen, known for his movies Rocky and Karate Kid. Jacques ended the trek on Saturday December the 18th 1999 after hiking a distance of 2,157 miles.

His son and one of his daughters are also well known people in the dance world. Jacques' daughter, Charlotte d'Amboise, is now a Broadway star. She made her debut in the musical Cats in 1983 and had a Tony nomination for her appearance in Jerome Robbins' Broadway. She is most known for her wonderful portrayal of Roxy Hart in the famous musical Chicago. Charlotte is now married to wonderful husband Terrence Mann. Her brother, Christopher d'Amboise has also been busy following in his father's footsteps. Christopher danced with the New York City Ballet for many years as a Principal dancer before becoming Artistic Director of Pennsylvania Ballet from 1990-1994. His book; Leap Year: A Year in the Life of a Dancer was published in October of 1982. Christopher has choreographed around 50 ballets and is working on a new musical with Cat Stevens. He now teaches at the the Broadway Dance Center.

Fun Facts
How to contact Jacques d'Amboise:

National Dance Institute
594 Broadway, room 805
New York, NY, 10012