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Jacques D'Amboise: Memoirs"I Was a Dancer"


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#1 Neryssa

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:51 PM

Forgive me if this book has been mentioned elsewhere on this forum as I have not found a review. Has anybody read it?



#2 kfw

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 01:00 PM

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Neryssa. It looks like the book will be released on March 1. :yahoo:

#3 Neryssa

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 01:16 PM

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Neryssa. It looks like the book will be released on March 1. :yahoo:


I am so excited too! Here is a "product description" from Amazon.com (I can only wonder what he kept to himself - he was there from the beginning, as we know.


Product Description
“Who am I? I’m a man; an American, a father, a teacher, but most of all, I am a person who knows how the arts can change lives, because they transformed mine. I was a dancer.”

In this rich, expansive, spirited memoir, Jacques d’Amboise, one of America’s most celebrated classical dancers, and former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet for more than three decades, tells the extraordinary story of his life in dance, and of America’s most renowned and admired dance companies.

He writes of his classical studies beginning at the age of eight at The School of American Ballet. At twelve he was asked to perform with Ballet Society; three years later he joined the New York City Ballet and made his European debut at London’s Covent Garden.

As George Balanchine’s protégé, d’Amboise had more works choreographed on him by “the supreme Ballet Master” than any other dancer, among them Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux; Episodes; A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream; Jewels; Raymonda Variations.

He writes of his boyhood—born Joseph Ahearn—in Dedham, Massachusetts; his mother (“the Boss”) moving the family to New York City’s Washington Heights; dragging her son and daughter to ballet class (paying the teacher $7.50 from hats she made and sold on street corners, and with chickens she cooked stuffed with chestnuts); his mother changing the family name from Ahearn to her maiden name, d’Amboise (“It’s aristocratic. It has the ‘d’ apostrophe. It sounds better for the ballet, and it’s a better name”).

We see him. a neighborhood tough, in Catholic schools being taught by the nuns; on the streets, fighting with neighborhood gangs, and taking ten classes a week at the School of American Ballet . . . being taught professional class by Balanchine (he was “small, unassuming, he radiated energy and total command”) and by other teachers of great legend: Anatole Oboukhoff, premier danseur of the Maryinsky Theatre (“Such a big star,” said Balanchine, “people followed him, like a prince with servants”); and Pierre Vladimiroff, Pavlova’s partner (“So light on feather feet”). Vladimiroff drilled into his students, “You must practice, practice, practice. Onstage, forget everything! Just listen to the music and dance.”

D’Amboise writes about Balanchine’s succession of ballerina muses who inspired him to near-obsessive passion and led him to create extraordinary ballets, dancers with whom d’Amboise partnered—Maria Tallchief; Tanaquil LeClercq, a stick-skinny teenager who blossomed into an exquisite, witty, sophisticated “angel” with her “long limbs and dramatic, mysterious elegance . . .”; the iridescent Allegra Kent; Melissa Hayden; Suzanne Farrell, who Balanchine called his “alabaster princess,” her every fiber, every movement imbued with passion and energy; Kay Mazzo; Kyra Nichols (“She’s perfect,” Balanchine said. “Uncomplicated—like fresh water”); and Karin von Aroldingen, to whom Balanchine left most of his ballets.

D’Amboise writes about dancing with and courting one of the company’s members, who became his wife for fifty-three years, and the four children they had . . . On going to Hollywood to make Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and being offered a long-term contract at MGM (“If you’re not careful,” Balanchine warned, “you will have sold your soul for seven years”) . . . On Jerome Robbins (“Jerry could be charming and complimentary, and then, five minutes later, attack, and crush your spirit—all to see how it would influence the dance movements”).

D’Amboise writes of the moment when he realizes his dancing career is over and he begins a new life and new dream teaching children all over the world about the arts through the magic of dance.

A riveting, magical book, as transformative as dancing itself.

#4 kfw

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 02:20 PM

I assume (presume?) the book has a co-author. It will be interesting to see how much of the D'Amboise's irrepressible personality comes through on the page.

#5 Neryssa

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 02:38 PM

I assume (presume?) the book has a co-author. It will be interesting to see how much of the D'Amboise's irrepressible personality comes through on the page.


I didn't see a co-author listed on Amazon.com. It is 464 pages, Maria Tallchief's was 368 pages and it wasn't long enough for me regarding information on Balanchine and NYCB.

#6 dirac

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:59 PM

Even if there's no co-author listed, he may well have had help. Which is perfectly understandable and indeed desirable for most non-writers. I'm really looking forward to this book, although I hope d'Amboise doesn't actually say things like "the iridescent Allegra Kent." Not that she wasn't, but that's hardly the kind of material I'm hoping for.

#7 Renata

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 05:31 PM

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. It is being released tomorrow and I just ordered it.

#8 Amy Reusch

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 08:17 PM

As George Balanchine’s protégé, d’Amboise had more works choreographed on him by “the supreme Ballet Master” than any other dancer, among them Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux; Episodes; A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream; Jewels; Raymonda Variations.


I do so hope at some point he will consent to work with the Balanchine Foundation on their Interpreter's Archive... what a treasure.

#9 bart

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 04:54 AM

On another thread, carbro has linked to information about d'Amboise's March 7 appearance at Symphony Space.
http://balletalert.i...505#entry282505

When I first attended NYCB in 1957, d'Amboise quickly became my hero among the male dancers. He danced almost everything, and did just about everything beautifully. Beyond that, he has always been a handsome man, a charming personality, a serious advocate for dance and dance training, and a very nice, funny, and well-loved guy. I have lots and lots of memories. Looking forward to the book. :thumbsup:

#10 kfw

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 12:03 PM

I just downloaded and browsed through a long sample of this on my Kindle, and it looks like a very lively read indeed, illustrated with lots of photos, drawings by the author, and even a recipe for something called "French-Canadian Spread - delicious and fattening." I'm going to wait till I see the book in the store and can check the image quality before deciding whether to buy the hardback or the heavily discounted Kindle version. But a heads up to newcomers who don't know this already: purchasing books (in paper or otherwise) through the Amazon portal at the top center of every Ballet Alert page helps support this site.

#11 Eileen

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 07:16 AM

I just downloaded and browsed through a long sample of this on my Kindle, and it looks like a very lively read indeed, illustrated with lots of photos, drawings by the author, and even a recipe for something called "French-Canadian Spread - delicious and fattening." I'm going to wait till I see the book in the store and can check the image quality before deciding whether to buy the hardback or the heavily discounted Kindle version. But a heads up to newcomers who don't know this already: purchasing books (in paper or otherwise) through the Amazon portal at the top center of every Ballet Alert page helps support this site.


I hate to take the wind from all of your balletic sails since I see how much you are looking forward to this memoir. But perhaps I can urge you to borrow this from the library. Here's what I wrote on Amazon, and if it seems a bit strongly put, please be aware that I moderated my tone as much as possible so as to reduce the pain factor to the author, yet at the same time warn the unwary reader:

"Is it possible for a ballet memoir to be boring?"

"This book desperately needed a proactive editor. There is too much filler, too much biographical prologue, too much irrelevant anecdote not bearing on ballet. Unlike Edward Villella's memoir, where his development is placed in the context of the relationship of a rebellious son to a father, in Jacques D'Amboise's memoir there is no overarching theme. It is a series of anecdotes. There are excellent descriptions of the dancers that he has partnered, but what I miss is the lack of relationship with Balanchine. D'Amboise danced everything, but somehow I'm not getting the feeling that he had a relationship with his chief mentor, Balanchine. An important memoir, but in need of editorial guidance. Also, there is a vulgarness, a raunchiness that could have been omitted. Who needed to know TMI about Lincoln Kirstein, or that George Balanchine may have actually gloated at the untimely death of a choreographic competitor? It's hard to believe Balanchine would have said what Jacques D'Amboise claims, but that such an anecdote is included reveals the lack of editorial judgment that pervades and damages this project. I am saddened to see that the publisher of this book is the once distinguished house of Knopf."

#12 Neryssa

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 08:48 AM

I hate to take the wind from all of your balletic sails since I see how much you are looking forward to this memoir. But perhaps I can urge you to borrow this from the library. Here's what I wrote on Amazon, and if it seems a bit strongly put, please be aware that I moderated my tone as much as possible so as to reduce the pain factor to the author, yet at the same time warn the unwary reader:

I saw your review on Amazon.com, Eileen but it would be nice to have a more descriptive review. How does D'Amboise's memoir compare to other dancers' memoirs (Allegra Kent, Maria Tallchief, Suzanne Farrell)? Does he describe the NYCB during the 1950s and the transition to the 1960s. Or does he just write about his personal and professional life with little historical perspective. I don't mind anecdotes in context, if that makes any sense.

#13 Eileen

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 09:32 AM

I hate to take the wind from all of your balletic sails since I see how much you are looking forward to this memoir. But perhaps I can urge you to borrow this from the library. Here's what I wrote on Amazon, and if it seems a bit strongly put, please be aware that I moderated my tone as much as possible so as to reduce the pain factor to the author, yet at the same time warn the unwary reader:

I saw your review on Amazon.com, Eileen but it would be nice to have a more descriptive review. How does D'Amboise's memoir compare to other dancers' memoirs (Allegra Kent, Maria Tallchief, Suzanne Farrell)? Does he describe the NYCB during the 1950s and the transition to the 1960s. Or does he just write about his personal and professional life with little historical perspective. I don't mind anecdotes in context, if that makes any sense.


Excellent idea, Neryssa, I will add more detail on these points when I get home.

#14 Neryssa

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 12:11 PM


I hate to take the wind from all of your balletic sails since I see how much you are looking forward to this memoir. But perhaps I can urge you to borrow this from the library. Here's what I wrote on Amazon, and if it seems a bit strongly put, please be aware that I moderated my tone as much as possible so as to reduce the pain factor to the author, yet at the same time warn the unwary reader:

I saw your review on Amazon.com, Eileen but it would be nice to have a more descriptive review. How does D'Amboise's memoir compare to other dancers' memoirs (Allegra Kent, Maria Tallchief, Suzanne Farrell)? Does he describe the NYCB during the 1950s and the transition to the 1960s. Or does he just write about his personal and professional life with little historical perspective. I don't mind anecdotes in context, if that makes any sense.


Excellent idea, Neryssa, I will add more detail on these points when I get home.


Thanks very much, Eileen. I appreciate it! :thanks:

#15 Neryssa

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 02:21 PM

**Spoiler alert** There is a lengthy excerpt on Balanchine's funeral at: http://hereandnow.wb...damboise-dancer


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