Dance History

Jacques d'Amboise's First Apollo Was "Terrible." Here's What It Taught Him About Being a Dancer.

Jacques d'Amboise leading a National Dance Institute class. Photo by Lois Greenfield, Courtesy DM Archives

In the October 1969 issue of Dance Magazine, we spoke with Jacques d'Amboise, then 20 years into his career with New York City Ballet. Though he became a principal dancer in 1953, the star admitted that it hadn't all been smooth sailing.


"I knew that I was terrible in my first Apollo," he told us, "and when Balanchine did not come to me and tell me so, did not train me in it, I realized that to be a dancer you must work as a dancer, not as a robot. I knew then that your teachers can teach you so much—but that the learning process is limitless, and that you set your own limits on what you learn."

D'Amboise arguably became the definitive interpreter of Apollo, and brought that thoughtful approach to his endeavors in choreography and arts education. In 1976, while still performing with NYCB, he founded National Dance Institute—and today, at age 85, he's still at it.

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