Broadway dancers and choreographers recall how Jacques D’Amboise changed dance in musical theater

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Choreographer and dancer Jacques d’Amboise, who popularized ballet in this country while becoming one of the New York City Ballet’s most famous dancers, died on May 2 in his Manhattan home. His daughter, Charlotte d’Amboise, twice a Tony candidate, told the New York Times the cause was complications from a stroke. M. d’Amboise was 86 years old.

Playbill remembers the groundbreaking artist with this tribute, which was originally released in August 2019 to celebrate his 85th birthday.

Jacques d’Amboise began his career as a dancer for the New York City Ballet under the tutelage of George Balanchine. Although he continued to choreograph for the NYCB, he made it to the theater, performing in the Broadway play. Shin aisle and dance in movies like Seven wives for seven brothers and Carousel.

But in 1976, d’Amboise founded the organization that will be his real legacy: the National Institute of Dance. For the past four decades, NDI has taught dance to New York public school children. The program serves more than 6,000 students per week free of charge, most of them from low-income families. While allowing all the youth in the program to express themselves, NDI also launched the careers of dancers, including Dharon E. Jones, played in the Broadway musical. West Side Story the comeback.

Even for those who haven’t studied at NDI, d’Amboise and his dancing have made an impact on some of the best minds in dance today. Here they celebrate the performer and his contributions:

“Jacques taught me a lot of things outside of dance as an art. He taught me that having patience for a vision and a dream that you have will allow you to appreciate and love every part of the process of making those dreams come true. I remember being impressed by Jacques’ jumping ability, I still am. He inspired me to keep jumping and reaching for the stars through his honest and inspiring vision that he brought to life with NDI.
—Dharon E. Jones (NDI & Action alum for the 2020 West Side Story cover of Broadway)

“The NDI students performed one of their dances for me during my visit, and it was a glorious experience! There was so much joy and pride on all their faces. This experience reminded us of the importance of Jacques’ work and his profound influence on the world of dance. He created safe spaces for all generations to find and celebrate joy by movement. It’s a gift to witness!
—Coreographer Camille A. Brown (Choir boy, Once on this island)

“Jacques is a legacy who has generously devoted his time and money to create a foundation to transmit his love and knowledge of dance. Jacques reminds me daily that art is for everyone. Not elitist. But fundamental.
—Chorégraphe Lorin Latarro (to come Almost known, Waitress)

“As a student, I performed the part that Jacques created in Western Symphony for the annual SAB workshop. I had no idea I was going to play many of his roles at the New York City Ballet. It wasn’t until we worked on ‘Apollo’ together that I really understood how to dance. Jacques became not only a mentor of mine, but a friend. He flew to Paris to see my first show of An American in Paris. I owe him so much. He paved the way for a guy like me to do what we both love to do.
—Printer nominated by Tony Robert Fairchild (An American in Paris)

“Watching Jacques d’Amboise and Sheree North in ‘The Best Things in Life Are Free’ is a lesson in storytelling through dance. What made Jacques so special, you believed everything he did.
—Choreographer JoAnn M. Hunter (London cover Joseph and the incredible Technicolor dream coat, Rock school)

“The mere thought of Jacques d’Amboise takes my breath away. When I was 14, I got a scholarship for the New York City Ballet. I saw Jacques dancing in class and I fell in love. Since then, Jacques has always brought dance to life. His work, particularly in the field of arts education for children, is unprecedented. Happy birthday Jacques! The love of this 14 year old girl.
—Chita Rivera, two-time Tony Award winner (The rink, Kiss of the spider woman)

Ruthie Fierberg is the former editor in chief of features and branded content at Playbill. She is also a freelance writer, moderator and podcaster. Learn more about RuthieFierberg.com.


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