I WAS A DANCER by Jacques d'Amboise


A Memoir
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The hefty autobiography of a celebrated New York City Ballet principal dancer whose career prospered for more than four decades.

Other luminaries of ballet have treated this often-mysterious world with down-to-earth candor—including Suzanne Farrell in Holding On to the Air (1990) and NYCB co-founder Lincoln Kirstein in Mosaic (1994)—but here, in his first book, d’Amboise moves beyond the breadth of his own experiences, mapping out the complex evolution of ballet in America. The author threads lively personal reminiscences and anecdotes with intriguing portraits of choreographers and fellow dancers, along with passages detailing the socio-political backdrops to his childhood and career. He infuses his accounts of rigorous rehearsals, exhaustive touring schedules and the harsher side of theater life with warmth, realism and charm, and allows melodramatic dialogue and pithy repartée to buoy overly long swaths of ballet terms and methodology. In one memorable passage, Kirstein is seen panicking about the survival of the company after his business partner, classical ballet titan George Balanchine, passed away, and his fiery tirade is dark and brutally honest: “At last, the tyranny of one man is over! Balanchine was never my friend. Do you think he ever asked me out socially? It was always business.” Poignant moments also emerge, as when a well-loved former ballerina, close to death, reflected dryly to d’Amboise, “You know all this bullshit about the afterlife? Well, there is one. It’s what’s left behind, from the way you lived. We did a pretty good job.” Now in his mid-70s, the author, too, is wistful yet satisfied, with countless feathers in his theatrical hat.

Full of intimate tidbits from the inner sanctum of professional ballet, d’Amboise’s journal of his illustrious career is a trove of stage icons, grand performances and hard-won personal triumphs.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4000-4234-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2010


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