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

Jacques d’Amboise, who shattered stereotypes about male dancers as he helped popularize ballet in America and have become probably the most distinguished male stars at New York Metropolis Ballet, died on Sunday at his house in Manhattan. He was 86.

His daughter, the actress and dancer Charlotte d’Amboise, mentioned the trigger was problems of a stroke.

Mr. d’Amboise embodied the best of an all-American model that mixed the nonchalant magnificence of Fred Astaire with the classicism of the danseur noble. He was the primary male star to emerge from Metropolis Ballet’s affiliated Faculty of American Ballet, becoming a member of the corporate’s corps on 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 Metropolis Ballet, in addition to many items for the scholars of Nationwide Dance Institute, a program he based and directed.

Mr. d’Amboise’s vitality, athleticism, infectious smile (which the critic Arlene Croce as soon as likened to the Cheshire Cat’s) and boy-next-door attraction endeared him to audiences and elevated ballet’s attraction for boys in a world of tutus and pink toe footwear.

He additionally helped carry ballet to broader audiences, dancing on Ed Sullivan’s present (then referred to as “Toast of the City”), enjoying vital roles in a number of 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 lot of dance movies within the early Eighties.

Though 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 many firm’s best 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 Instances in 1976, “is not only a dancer, he’s an establishment.”

Mr. d’Amboise was astonished when Balanchine invited him to affix Metropolis Ballet in 1949, a yr after the corporate started its first season. He was 15 years previous. “I can’t do it, I’ve to complete college,” he recalled pondering, in his autobiography, “I Was a Dancer” (2011). His father suggested him to develop into 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.

Though Balanchine was usually extra concerned about 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” in regards to the Cranko fee, he wrote in his autobiography.)

In a 2018 interview, the Metropolis 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 labor. Inside that, there are poets and dreamers and animals. Jacques is a reminder that each one of that may be contained in a single physique.”

Mr. d’Amboise was born Joseph Jacques Ahearn on July 28, 1934, in Dedham, Mass., a suburb of Boston, to Andrew and Georgiana (d’Amboise) Ahearn. His father’s dad and mom have been immigrants from Galway, Eire; his mom was French Canadian. In the hunt for work, his dad and mom moved the household to New York Metropolis, the place his father discovered a job as an elevator operator at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The household settled in Washington Heights, in Higher Manhattan. To maintain Jacques, as he was recognized, off the streets, his mom enrolled him, at age 7, and his sister Madeleine in Madam Seda’s ballet lessons on 181st Avenue.

After six months, the siblings moved to the Faculty 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 Evening’s Dream.”

He wrote in his autobiography of how his mom’s choice had modified his life: “What a rare factor for a avenue boy with mates in gangs. Half grew as much as develop into policemen and the opposite half gangsters — and I grew to become a ballet dancer!”

In 1946, his mom persuaded his father to vary the household title from Ahearn to d’Amboise. Her rationalization, 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 Metropolis Ballet, Mr. d’Amboise was quickly dancing solo roles, together with the lead in Lew Christensen’s “Filling Station,” which led to an invite from the movie director Stanley Donen to affix the solid of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954).

In 1956 he married the Metropolis Ballet soloist Carolyn George, who died in 2009. Along with his daughter Charlotte, he’s survived by their two sons, George and Christopher, a choreographer and former Metropolis 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 Greatest Issues in Life are Free.” However he remained dedicated to ballet and to Balanchine.

“Folks mentioned, ‘You may be the following Gene Kelly,’” Mr. d’Amboise mentioned in a 2011 interview with The Los Angeles Instances. “I didn’t know if I may act, however I knew I might be an incredible 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 solid 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, “grew to become a lot extra attention-grabbing, 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 by means of artwork.”

Over the following 27 years, Mr. d’Amboise continued to be a stalwart member of Metropolis Ballet, creating roles and showing in a few of Balanchine’s most vital ballets, together with “Concerto Barocco,” “Meditation,” “Violin Concerto” and “Actions for Piano and Violin.”

Inspired by Balanchine, he additionally choreographed commonly for the corporate, though critiques of his work have been largely lukewarm. He wrote in his autobiography that each Balanchine and Kirstein had assured him that he would lead Metropolis Ballet someday, however Peter Martins and Jerome Robbins took over the corporate after Balanchine’s demise in 1983.

Mr. d’Amboise appeared to have been resigned to that consequence: He retired from efficiency the following yr and turned his attentions to Nationwide Dance Institute, which takes dance into public colleges 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 lessons expanded to incorporate ladies and moved into quite a few public colleges.

Now the purpose is to supply free lessons to all, regardless of the kid’s background or potential. At present the institute teaches 1000’s of New York Metropolis kids 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 Really feel Like Dancin’.”

“This second chapter introduced one thing extra fulfilling than my profession as a 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 may take management of his physique, and from that he can study to take management of his life.”

For his contribution to arts training, 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 consider himself as a dancer all his life, however he was additionally a fervent New Yorker. Requested in a 2018 article in The Instances the place he would love his ashes scattered, he responded, “Unfold me in Instances Sq. or the Belasco Theater.”

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