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I Was a Dancer
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I Was a Dancer

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  165 ratings  ·  28 reviews
“Who am I? I’m a man; an American, a father, a teacher, but most of all, I am a person who knows how the arts can change lives, because they transformed mine. I was a dancer.”

In this rich, expansive, spirited memoir, Jacques d’Amboise, one of America’s most celebrated classical dancers, and former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet for more than three decades,
ebook, 464 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Knopf (first published February 1st 2011)
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The beginning of D'Amboise's memoir really drew me in - his style is clever and conversational establishing intimacy with his reader from the first sentence. Unfortunately, his childhood and adolescence were much more captivating than his professional career or at least read that way. I had the opportunity to hear him speak a few months back and he recited EVERY amusing anecdotal story that appears in the book making the actual experience of reading his book anti-climatic - not unlike seeing a m ...more
Yes, I admit I've been on a bit of a dance kick lately (no pun intended) and this book was just the ticket! Jacques D'Amboise was one of my favorite dancers, but I never knew much about him except that he was in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," danced for the New York City Ballet, and formed the National Dance Institute to teach children about movement and dance. He had a fascinating family life and it was great to read his first-hand stories of working with George Balanchine and the many grea ...more
Much of this book was fascinating, especially the chapters that covered Jacques D'Amboise's childhood and early years at NYCB. The last third of the book was a real slog to get through, however. Some judicious editing would have helped here, I think.

I know the title implies that the focus of this memoir is on D'Amboise's life as a dancer, but I find it strange that there is so little about his personal life, especially interesting events, such as his hike with his oldest son, George, on the Appa
I loved the New York City Ballet in the late 70s and early 80s, and so I also loved D'Amboise' dancing. And I enjoyed his book. His career makes for a very engaging story as does his revelations on his colleagues, and Kirsten and Balanchine. In fact, it is also a profile of Balanchine. At times the chronology failed me...I wasn't sure where we were in his career; and I wish that he wrote more about his appearances in the early 80s. But that is a failure of the editing. D'Amboise is relentlessly ...more
What a life Jacques D'Amboise has lived! He studied with George Balanchine at the New York City Ballet and became a premier dancer,partnering with some of the most famous ballerinas of the twentieth century. I particularly enjoyed his tales of touring the world and what the personalities of the various dancers he worked with were like, along with Balanchine and Lincoln Kerstein and a variety of other famous people and wealthy people. Lots of name dropping, but they were all interesting. I learne ...more
This is a really interesting and fun memoir of the New York City Ballet's Jacques d'Amboise. Lots of stories about Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, as well as Stravinsky, Chagall, and many dancers. Jacques' mother, the Boss, is an especially
brilliant character. Maria, you must read this!
“When Madame Seda said, ‘There are better teachers than I,’ she sent me to a crucible, a laboratory of theater and dance that would shape and influence the performing arts in this country for the rest of the century. There, I would plié, changement, and pirouette my heart out, guided by some of the greatest artists and innovators residing in New York City, most of them from pre-Soviet Russia, role models who demanded the best of their students.”

Jacques d’Amboise began his dance career in a smal
Super fun and gossipy. D'Amboise's love of dance shines. I LOVE that he started teaching ballet classes just for boys so they wouldn't always be stuck in a class full of girls, and also that he gave free classes to kids all over the world.

This book also reinforces for me that Only Women Bleed. D'Amboise was one of Balanchine's few male proteges and received a lot of confidences you don't see in the women's memoirs. Luckily, D'Amboise tells us what he knows (when he asked Balanchine which of his
The Library Lady
I loved this, but I finished it with a sense of disquiet because I found a mean streak in it.

Mikhail Baryshnikov, who IMHO is one of the greatest dancers ever is mentioned ONCE. ONCE. And that is in passing, when D'Amboise is talking about how no male dancer--and he lists a bunch including "Misha" could ever had been as good as Balanchine.

One reference. Not even a footnote explaining who Baryshinkov is/was then, though D'Amboise gives lengthy footnotes about dozens of obscure characters the read
Martha Tomhave
This is a great book because you get to meet a man who understands luck (a theme in Richard Russo's Elsewhere as well) - that he was a 'wild, untamed boy' and dancing opened his life to enormous possibility. His mother, the Boss, is funny and also rather terrifying. And what a storyteller - something he undoubtedly learned from his mother - and what an open and compassionate heart - which I think he developed on his own. I love reading about dancing and love Balanchine's choreography, but what w ...more
This book reads as though the editor was asleep at the keyboard. It jumped all over the place and I couldn't get a sense of what was going on. I also agree with the previous reviewer...Baryshnikov was a contemporary and his defection was big news. And both men partnered some of the same ballerinas (Gelsey Kirkland comes to mind), so why didn't he get more than a mention? Also, I love memoirs written by talented people that give the reader a peek into their process, struggles, and what it's like ...more
George Ilsley
At first brilliant, the book starts to drag and become uninteresting. Is it a personal memoir, a history of the NYCB, or a detailed survey of the NDI? D'Amboise tries to be everything here, and one interest level wavers depending on what one is actually interested in. Most crucially for the reader, the light deft prose which sparkles in the first section (dare I say, the prose dances on the page) becomes leaden and flat footed as the book progresses. This may indeed be designed to reflect the ag ...more
Nov 13, 2014 Lourdeschedid_ is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
i love this book so muchx
I loved Jacques D'Amboise as a dancer, his writing less so. However, it was well worth the trip down memory lane.
Suzanne Zulauf
I wish there was more personal info about his life now, hiking the AT, developing the trail dances, and his performances along the way.
Jennifer Fitzery
I always admired Jacques d'Ambrose work with kids in NYC and bringing dance to those who might not otherwise experience it. I liked a lot of this book but it could have done with some editing. Much of the book is dedicated to Balanchine who he clearly admires but it started to sound like Balanchine's biography rather than Jacques d'Amboise's memoir. But I did find the world if the professional ballet dancer fascinating.
Somewhat entertaining book by a dancer/story-teller who was close to Balanchine. Lots of name-dropping. And strange omissions, e.g., Baryshnikov was at NYCB and gets his name mentioned in passing just once that I noticed. The first part of the book, covering d'Amboise's youth and start in ballet is better. The last part is a jumble of anecdotes that might have been helped by some editing.
The chronology is all over the place in this anectodotal memoir but D'Amboise can name-drop like no one's business. His gratitude toward teachers and mentors, and his sincere love and devotion to Balanchine saturate the stories. A one-of-a-kind perspective on so many episodes in dance history! You'll feel as though you know Mr. D'Amboise by the final pages. A must for dancers & fans of ballet.
Susan Jaffe Pober
I just finished the book. And I'm sad. I didn't want it to end. Jacques may not be the best writer in the world, but he was one of the best dancers & his love for dance and the life he lived pours out of every page. HIs passion for the New York City Ballet; for Balanchine; for his wife and children; and for his National Dance Institute is a tribute to him & to those whose lives he touched.
Kim Taylor Knight
I am in the process of reading this book.

It is especially engaging because it reads just like Mr. D'Amboise in person. I had the great fortune of meeting Mr. D'Amboise twice and he is simply the most remarkable person in the field of dance or education. His story is fascinating and will inspire all who work with children.
This was an unexpected pick-up to read. I knew nothing about D'Amboise, but was interested in insight into SAB/NYCB so it was a fascinating read. His love of dance was evident on every page and made it enjoyable to read about mundane details in the life of a dancer. It's made me want to learn more about American ballet!
Holly Cline
You know what I love most about this memoir? There was a reason for it to be written other than continued exposure and money. A life worth reading about. This isn't a book written at the height of fame for peak sales before time runs out. His life is interesting and well documented here.
For a showbiz autobiography, I really liked it. It avoided the gossipy tone that a lot of these sorts of books can take, and I loved the insider's view of ballet.
I love Mr. D'Amboise's writing. He manages to write so well about his life, the people he knew, and what he experienced. Loved how honest he was.
If you like dancing at all, this book is a must! So much history from one of the best dancers.
Lost me at the last quarter, but the first three quarters were EXCELLENT!
fantastic. visceral.
Engrossing, a beautiful story
Robin marked it as to-read
Oct 04, 2015
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