JACQUES D’AMBOISE TAPES VIDEO SERIES FOR THE GEORGE BALANCHINE FOUNDATION
Celebrated former principal dancer Jacques d’Amboise coaches defining role of Apollo
New York City—Jacques d’Amboise, former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet for over three decades, who is recognized as one of the foremost interpreters of the role of Apollo, recently coached the masterwork for The George Balanchine Foundation’s Interpreters Archives. The aim of the series is to document the insights of dancers who worked closely with Balanchine on some of his greatest ballets. The archive’s mission is to preserve this knowledge and pass it along to the dancers, scholars and historians of today. The sessions were held on September 4th, 5th, and 6th, 2012, at the School of American Ballet studios in the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York.
Mr. d’Amboise worked with Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin, both principals with the New York City Ballet. Solo pianist Susan Walters of the New York City Ballet Orchestra played for the coaching session. The taping was supervised by Nichol Hlinka, a former NYCB principal dancer who is the associate director of the Foundation’s video archives program, assisted by Nancy Reynolds, the Foundation’s director of research, and former film professor Virginia Brooks.
APOLLO, or Apollon Musagète, the ballet’s original title, premiered on June 12, 1928 with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt in Paris. The composer, Igor Stravinsky, who possessed a strong interest in Greek mythology, conceived of and composed the score to Apollo as a ballet blanc. He considered the “austere translucence of the string orchestra to approximate white hues,” writes Charles M. Joseph in Stravinsky & Balanchine: A Journey of Invention. It was Stravinsky who encouraged Balanchine to “eliminate … limit … clarify … reduce,” Joseph writes.
For Balanchine the ballet would be a turning point in his life. “In its discipline and restraint, in its sustained oneness of tone and feeling, the score was a revelation,” he said.
Apollo marked the beginning of a lifelong partnership between Balanchine and Stravinsky, who conducted the orchestra at its premiere. Years later, Mr. d’Amboise also had the rare honor of performing Apollo with Stravinsky conducting.
In 1957, Mr. d’Amboise was first cast in the defining role, which Balanchine summarized this way: “A wild, untamed youth learns nobility through art.” It is this description that capsulized Mr. d’Amboise’s portrayal.
Allegra Kent, who danced Terpsichore to his Apollo, called Mr. d’Amboise “swashbuckling,” adding, “in ‘Apollo,’ he brought something special. He was like a god, born out of the rocks, sort of raw and strange in his emotions.”
JACQUES d’AMBOISE joined the New York City Ballet at fifteen, became a principal dancer at seventeen, and remained so for the next thirty-five years. During his career he had more works choreographed specifically for him by the ballet-master George Balanchine than any other dancer. These include the ballets Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, Episodes, The Figure in the Carpet, Jewels, Meditation, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Raymonda Variations, Stars and Stripes, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Western Symphony, and Who Cares? As a choreographer, Mr. d’Amboise’s credits include almost twenty works commissioned for the New York City Ballet. Mr. d’Amboise now leads the field of arts education with a model program that exposes thousands of school children to the magic and discipline of dance. In 1976, while still a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet, Mr. d’Amboise founded National Dance Institute in the belief that the arts have a unique power to engage and motivate individuals towards excellence. He is the author of Teaching the Magic of Dance and his recent memoir, I was a Dancer.
“The arts open your heart and mind to possibilities that are limitless. They are pathways that touch upon our brains and emotions and bring sustenance to imagination.” —Jacques d’Amboise
ROBERT FAIRCHILD entered the School of American Ballet in 2002, and in June 2005 he became an apprentice with the New York City Ballet. The following June, he joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet; in 2007 he was promoted to soloist and in 2009 to principal dancer.
Mr. Fairchild has performed leading roles in numerous Balanchine ballets, including Apollo, Duo Concertant, La Sonnambula, Liebeslieder Walzer, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and Who Cares?; Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, Fancy Free, Opus19/ The Dreamer, and West Side Story; and Peter Martins’ Jeu de Carte, Swan Lake, and Thou Swell. He has originated many roles, including Peter Martins’ Romeo+Juliet, Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Les Carillons.
STERLING HYLTIN entered the School of American Ballet in 2000. In 2002, she became an apprentice with New York City Ballet, a full member of the corps de ballet in 2003, a soloist in 2006, and a principal dancer in 2007.
Her repertory encompasses leading roles in a wide range of Balanchine ballets, including Apollo, Coppélia, Danses Concertantes, Divertimento No. 15, Duo Concertant, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, La Source, and Stravinsky Violin Concerto; Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, The Concert, and In G Major; and Peter Martins’ Calcium Light Night, Morgen, and The Sleeping Beauty. She appears, with Gonzalo Garcia, in an Interpreters Archive video in which Violette Verdy and Helgi Tomasson coach La Source.
NANCY REYNOLDS, a dance historian and former member of the New York City Ballet, is the Balanchine Foundation’s director of research and director of the Foundation’s video archives program.
NICHOL HLINKA, a former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, performed leading roles in numerous Balanchine ballets during her twenty-four-year career. She joined the Balanchine Foundation in 2010 and is the associate project director for the video archives program.
VIRGINIA BROOKS, Professor Emerita of Film at Brooklyn College/CUNY, and director of several dance documentaries, has been editor of the Balanchine Foundation’s video archives program since its inception in 1994.
The George Balanchine Foundation is a not for profit corporation established in 1983. Its mission is to create programs that educate the public and further Balanchine’s work and aesthetic, with the goal of advancing high standards of excellence in dance and its allied arts. Among the Foundation’s major initiatives are the Video Archives in which dancers who worked closely with Balanchine teach and coach their roles to the dancers of today (Interpreters Archive) or recreate Balanchine ballets that are rarely performed and in danger of disappearing (Archive of Lost Choreography). Legendary dancers who have taken part in this project include Alicia Markova, Maria Tallchief, Frederic Franklin, Alicia Alonso, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, Todd Bolender, Merrill Ashley, Suzanne Farrell, Rosella Hightower, Marie-Jeanne, Violette Verdy, Edward Villella, Patricia Wilde, Yvonne Mounsey, and Helgi Tomasson, working with leading dancers from such companies as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, among others.
In 2007 the Foundation announced the completion of another major initiative, the online publication of the Balanchine Catalogue, a fully searchable database giving first-performance details of all known dances created by Balanchine, supplemented by lists of companies staging the ballets, a bibliography, a videography, reference resources, a database of roles Balanchine performed, and additional related materials
The project was made possible by a leadership grant from The Jerome Robbins Foundation.
Earlier projects include Popular Balanchine, comprising forty-two boxes of material pertaining to Balanchine’s commercial work, housed at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library; and Music Dances: Balanchine Choreographs Stravinsky, a video by Professor Stephanie Jordan of Roehampton University, London.