cover image I Was a Dancer: A Memoir

I Was a Dancer: A Memoir

Jacques d'Amboise, Knopf, $35 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4234-0

In this lively memoir, former New York City Ballet principal dancer d'Amboise (Teaching the Magic of Dance) details his career at the company—but barely mentions his work for Broadway and Hollywood. He exuberantly recounts his childhood, arrival at the School of American Ballet, 35 years at NYCB, and his beloved National Dance Institute. Now 76, d'Amboise reveals how close he was to George Balanchine—sharing a decade's worth of New Year's Eves, acting as mediator in the choreographer's love affairs, visiting him daily in the hospital during his final year, and so fully assimilating the master's approach and style that it was assumed for years that d'Amboise would succeed Balanchine as head of NYCB. Instead, d'Amboise founded the National Dance Institute in 1976 to involve public school students in the transformative power of the arts, for which he credits a full and love-filled life. The segments devoted to major figures in 20th-century ballet, including the Christensen brothers, John Cranko, and Balanchine's many muses—while informative, lack the humor and narrative pull of the main story: how a street kid who literally tried to fly, developed gravity-defying elevation and superb artistry as a ballet dancer. 106 b&w photos. (Feb.)