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May 12, 2021

How Legendary Dancer Jacques d’Amboise Brought Dance to Public School Kids

Ask students: Who was Jacques d’Amboise? When and Where did he begin to work with public school children and bring dance education to the classroom?

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Jacques d'Amboise Brings Dance to Public Schools

Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. To read the transcript of the video below, click here.

We take a moment to look back at the career of dancer Jacques d’Amboise, who died Sunday [May 2, 2021] at the age of 86 in his Manhattan home following complications from a stroke. His work with the New York City Ballet, on film and in public schools, brought dance to new heights.

  • Jacques d’Amboise called himself a New Yorker with a fancy French name, but was first and foremost a legend in the world of dance, best known as a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, appearing for decades on stages around the world.
  • “If you think back, why are you doing what you’re doing, it’s those early influences,” d’Amboise told Newshour in 2015, “your teachers especially, and your parents, that kind of write the scripts that you end up acting out the rest of your life.”

Discussion questions: Jacques d'Amboise's Life

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who was Jacques d’Amboise?
  • What were some of d’Amboise accomplishments? 
  • When and Where did he begin to work with public school children and bring dance education to the classroom?
  • Why did d’Amboise become a dancer?
  • How do you think d’Amboise will be remembered?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus question: Why do you think Jacques d’Amboise dedicated so much of his life to helping young people, many from low-income families, how to dance? 

Media literacy:What memories, images and stories are captured in obituaries that are not captured in other types of news articles?

Dig deeper: Jacques d’Amboise went all over the world teaching children the joy of dance and ballet.

  • What do think these pictures might show about d’Amboise’s work as a professional dancer and his work with children?
  • What are some of the facial expressions you see on in the photos?
  • What might you not see about the work that goes into dancing from the pictures?
  • Can you think of a dancer, musician or singer you would like to work with and learn from? Why did you choose that person?

Jacques d’Amboise, founder of the National Dance Institute, teachers children in Harlem. Photo by Carolyn George

Jacques d’Amboise dances the lead in “Apollo,” a ballet by George Balanchine. First choreographed in 1928, Balanchine revived it in 1957. The title role became one of the defining moments of d’Amboise’s career, as critics lauded him as the “definitive Apollo,” according to the Paris Review. Photo by Carolyn George

Jacques d’Amboise and his son Christopher in costume from New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine’s ballet “Union Jack.” The ballet premiered in 1976 at the New York State Theater (now called the David H. Koch theater) at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Photograph by Carolyn George

Jacques d’Amboise speaks onstage at the National Dance Institute (NDI) Annual Gala at PlayStation Theater on April 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for National Dance Institute)

Jacques d’Amboise with Russian ballet star Mikhail Baryskhnikov at the National Dance Institute’s end-of year event in 1979. 400 children joined them to dance in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Photo by Carolyn George

Jacques d’Amboise dances with kids on the roof of PS59 on the east side of Manhattan in New York City. Photograph by John Dominis/Carolyn George

Republished with permission from PBS Newshour Extra.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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