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Jacques D'Amboise: Portrait of a Great American Dancer
Jacques D'Amboise Portrait of a Great American Dancer
Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2006     1hr 25min

VAI 4377 First release on DVD of the complete ballets "Apollo" (Balanchine choreography, Stravinsky music), "Filling Station" (Christensen choreography, Thomson music), "Afternoon of a Faun" (Robbins choreography, Debussy...  more »


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Movie Details

Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Dance, Educational, Classical, Ballet & Dance
Studio: Video Artists Int'l
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 08/29/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1954
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 25min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Lots of treasures
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 09/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Jacque d'Amboise, the American ballet dancer, had a very long and illustrious career, much of it spent at the New York City Ballet. He was one of George Balanchine's favorite dancers, and this wonderful new release is a must-have for balletomanes.

Perhaps the most valuable part of this dvd is a performance of Apollo, filmed in 1960, with Jiliana, Francia Russell, and Diana Adams as the three muses. Apollo was Balanchine's first "hit", choreographed in 1928 for the Ballet Russes. It has been a staple not just of the New York City Ballet but of ballet companies worldwide for almost 80 years. This filmed Apollo is valuable because in later years, Balanchine abridged Apollo slightly. He erased the birthing scene, and then also erased the final image of Apollo ascending the steps to Olympus, instead ending with the three muses lifting their legs into a "sun-dial." I prefer the original ending, mostly because I feel the cut Apollo erases some of Igor Stravinsky's best music.

It is interesting to see this Apollo, because in later years the work became strongly associated with Peter Martins, the tall blonde Danish dancer, and Suzanne Farrell (who danced Terpischore, the muse of dance), Balanchine's last and perhaps most celebrated "muse." The Terpischore/Apollo duet monopolized the ballet. d'Amboise is neither blond nor particularly handsome, and the ballet is more of a character/narrative piece. He looks a lot more like Serge Lifar, the original creator of Apollo. Also, while the Terpischore/Apollo duet is still the highlight of the ballet, it seems more integrated into the rest of the ballet. This is hard to describe except to say that nowadays the duet is taken at a much slower pace, with a lot more still posing, while Diana Adams and d'Amboise take the duet at a relatively fast clip. This is kind of akin to the Odette/Siegfried pas de deux in Swan Lake. Nowadays it is taken at an extremely slow pace, with a lot more still posing, whereas old videos show that a brisker pace was the norm. Still, the dancing in this Apollo is excellent across the boards, especially the long-limbed and glamorous Adams as Terpischore.

Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun is also invaluable because it has rare footage of Tanaquil LeClercq, the ultra-glamorous ballerina (and Balanchine's fifth wife) whose career was tragically cut short by polio. LeClercq, with her long legs and striking features, is wonderfully sultry in this langorous, dreamy duet. The recently deceased Melissa Hayden joins d'Amboise in the irrepresible finale to Balanchine's "Stars and Stripes", as well as the duet to Todd Bolender's "The Still Point." The Stars and Stripes finale could be cheesy but it's also one of the most charming pieces of Balanchine choreography. I had never heard of "The Still Point" but the duet, set to music by Debussy, is very beautiful. d'Amboise dances more traditional fare, the "Black Swan pas de deux" of Swan Lake, with Lupe Serrano. It's really nothing special, except to see footage of Serrano, who wasn't filmed very often.

Two segments are rather strange: one is d'Amboise's own choreography to the "Snow" music of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. It's a duet with Melissa Hayden, except they dance in an incredibly cheesy-looking "snow-covered street," and it's really more of a curiosity than anything. Ballet meets "It's a Wonderful Life." The other is "The Filling Station," a ballet set at, well, a gas station, with music by Virgil Thomson and choreography by Lew Christensen. It's not a masterpiece, or even a good ballet, but it does demonstrate d'Amboise's range as a dancer, as the dancing is more Gene Kelly than ballet. To round out the dvd there's a 50 minute interview with d'Amboise as he recalls how he started dancing, working with Balanchine, and his projects today.
A must-get."
Great record of wonderful Dancing...MORE!!!!
Ballet Boy | USA | 02/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Finally, some wonderful films have been released from Radio Canada. There are many films of the New York City Ballet that were done in Canada and until now, they wouldn't even let you look at them at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. Although these are usually badly filmed and poor quality like the film of Divertimento #15, they are still worth cleaning up and seeing as this quality of dancer does not exist anymore. I was thrilled to see how well Apollo looked. I have a copy of this particular tape myself but this one has been cleaned and made to look like new. It is also wonderful to see the great Tanaquil LeClercq in Afternoon of a Faun. I would have thought that the Robbins Trust would do everything possible to block this from being seen. They hold the Robbins films, of which there are vast numbers, tighter than a drum. For some reason the NYCB has always felt that everything that is on film is meant to be locked away for eternity. Sadly, they are blocking people from seeing some of the greatest dancers America ever produced dancing wonderful ballet they way they should be danced.

Filing Station is an interesting bore but the Snow Pas is beautiful with lovely choreography by Jaques. It is the best choreography I have ever seen to this beautiful music and Melissa is wonderful. Stars, although truncated, is marvelous! I want to see more!!!!

Jacques is a funny and very talented man. When I was teaching at Broadway Dance Center years ago, he walked in to take the class wearing some kind of funny looking sneakers. I was very surprised and yet thrilled. I announced to the class that we had one of America's great dancers in class. He got a kick out of that. Afterwards, he told me that it was a great class. A very nice guy. He should have been made director of the NYCB instead of Peter Martins who was a cold but very good dancer. Sadly, he is a terrible director who has destroyed the Balanchine esthetic and turned NYCB into a kiddy company. They may have technique but try to find one Hayden, Ashley, Kent, Verdy, D'Amboise, Villella or any other dancer artistically comparable to these. Never mind the repertoire...Diamond Project, UGH! What a waste of money...better spent on hungry children."
Jacques d'Amboise, a great american danser
M. Dussault | 03/26/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It is a very interesting document specialy those from Radio-Canada's archives of 1955 and 1960. As I was in the studio when this Apollon-Musagette was recorded (Pierre Mercure and François Bernier, réalisateurs, beeing personnal friends, who invited me to share with them this recording of a great danser(I was recording a piano concert in another studio)) I looked at this document with special interest and touching reminiscence! The interview is extremely touching and interesting, specialy knowing how energicaly and courageously his "french canadian" mother looked upon her sons and daughter. Thanks so much for those marvelous moments of pure art!!!"
I'm happy to have an Apollo
Ernest L. Sparks | Portland, OR USA | 03/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A good thing about it is that it includes the Naissance d'Apollon dance, which Balanchine later cut out. I disagree with with his decision that it made the male dancer look bad. I agree with another reviewer that Peter Martins looked more like a greek god than Jacques d'Amboise. Also, Balanchine's decision to forgo full costuming makes Apollo's cloth looks like an old knotted dishtowel. But I'm just being picky. I love love love the dances. Now if someone would just come out with an Orpheus film and an Agon film. {SIGH}"