Home > Treasures A-Z > Jacques d'Amboise

Jacques d'Amboise

Back to List | Related Treasures More Resources

Jacques d'Amboise in George Balanchine's Apollo, Photo by John Dominis


Jacques d’Amboise has single-handedly done much to broaden appreciation for ballet in America. As a principal dancer with New York City Ballet he shattered stereotypes by creating a masculine, all-American image for ballet, and since retiring from the stage he has brought dance education to countless public school children. Born Joseph Jacques Ahearn on July 28, 1934 in Dedham, Massachussetts, he grew up in Washington Heights, New York City, and entered the School of American Ballet at the age of eight. At just fifteen he joined New York City Ballet, becoming one of the first dancers to graduate from the school into the company. George Balanchine created a wide variety of roles for him, and he was especially celebrated for his interpretation of Balanchine’s 1928 ballet Apollo. He was known for his exuberance, athleticism, skilled partnering, and on-stage joie-de-vivre, qualities that were also on view in films like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). In 1976, d’Amboise founded the National Dance Institute, which brings arts education and appreciation into public schools. His work with the Institute has taken him around the world, and he has also promoted dance through films, television programs, and books. He has been widely recognized and honored for both his artistic excellence and his humanitarian work. www.nationaldance.org

Pictured above: Jacques d'Amboise in George Balanchine's Apollo, 1963. (Photograph by John Dominis.) 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."

Cover design for He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin'



Pictured left:Cover design for He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin', a 1983 Academy Award-winning documentary about Jacques d'Amboise by Emile Ardolino. The documentary includes footage of d'Amboise teaching schoolchildren through the National Dance Institute, which he founded to bring dance and arts education to public schools.


Essay by Kirsten Wilkinson -- Selected resources


Jacques d'Amboise in Ballet Encounter


Pictured right: Jacques d'Amboise in Ballet Encounter, a program organized by d'Amboise in the 1970s that presented compilations of ballet excerpts with a touring company including fellow NYCB dancers. D'Amboise has long been committed to expanding the audience for ballet. (Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection, The Newberry Library, Chicago.) 


D'Amboise in Stars and Stripes

Pictured right: Jacques d'Amboise in George Balanchine's Stars and Stripes. (Photograph by Gjon Mili). Set to Sousa marches, this ballet captured the quality of all-American exuberance and athleticism that Balanchine found in his adopted country and in Jacques d'Amboise, who became the choreographer's protégé after joining New York City Ballet at the age of 15.