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Jacques d’Amboise: The Ballet Legend 
Who Brought Generosity Center Stage 

 Works from the Collection of Jacques d’Amboise, sold in part to benefit the National Dance Institute, NY in STAIR’s upcoming 20th Century, Modern and Contemporary Fine Art auction on June 8, 2023.  

Over the course of his career, Jacques d’Amboise (July 28, 1934 – May 2, 2021) seemingly floated through what others would consider a uniquely rigorous vocation. Upon taking his first, unfledged, jump at the age of seven in Madame Seda’s Washington Heights ballet class, d’Amboise was intrinsically struck by the pursuit of dance and would go on to define a different kind of male ballet dancer, one that brought radiant power, athleticism, and a groundbreaking relatability to an entirely new generation of performers.   

Invited personally by its co-founder, George Balanchine, Jacques d’Amboise joined the New York City Ballet company in 1949 at the age of fifteen and would take on the role of principal dancer beginning in 1953. Jacques d’Amboise danced an extraordinary twenty-four roles for Balanchine and made his own mark as a choreographer with credits including nearly twenty works commissioned for New York City Ballet. In collaboration with Balanchine, d’Amboise created leading roles in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Jewels,” “Stars And Stripes” and many other ballet classics. In 1976, while still a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, d’Amboise founded the National Dance Institute, teaching children from New York City Public Schools with unfettered passion and dedication. It was during his time here, with the National Dance Institute, that d’Amboise would take on his signature, principal role of a lifetime, and prove his unwavering sense of generosity for the stage. Mr. d’Amboise, along with other New York City Ballet principal dancers, volunteered their time to teach and assemble hundreds of children per year from across New York City to put on their annual Event of the Year at the Felt Forum in New York City’s Madison Square Garden (now called The Theater). His program grew into the National Dance Institute, which today provides free dance lessons for 6,000 children every week. In an interview with the Paris Review, d’Amboise shared what had inspired him to teach others, saying, “I think I did my solo before I was seventeen and I was doing principal roles while I was still quarter ballet. And Freddie Ashton came to the U.S. and did a ballet for me, and then I did my first movie. I turned eighteen on the set. I just did what I wanted and had everything given to me. And in a way that was why I started National Dance Institute: I never had to audition for anything; I never had to pay for a dance class.” Over the last forty-five years, NDI programs in New York City and through its associates, both nationally and internationally, have reached and influenced over two million children. His brilliance as a dancer, teacher, and fervent New Yorker is perfectly preserved in Emile Ardolino’s 1983 Oscar-winning documentary, “He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’.” For his contribution to arts education, he received a 1990 MacArthur Fellowship, a 1995 Kennedy Honors Award, and a New York Governor’s Award, among many other honors.   

Works from the Collection of Jacques d’Amboise, sold in part to benefit the National Dance Institute, NY, coming up in our 20th Century, Modern and Contemporary Fine Art auction on June 8, 2023, include paintings by Red Grooms, Alex Katz, and April Gornik as well as works on paper by Paul Cadmus, Bryan Hunt, Robert Rauschenberg, and Julian Schnabel. 

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