“Would you join us?” said Jacques d’Amboise to a fifth-grader during a rare break in the action of a recent National Dance Institute class. “Because I love your dancing very much.” Later, he singled out another child to demonstrate a particularly tricky routine. “You make a mistake and I’ll take your shoes,” he kidded in his gruff New York street accent. To help another child understand just how large a step was required for a particular movement, the 76-year-old founder of NDI laid down on the floor and challenged the boy to step high enough to clear his torso.
These particular fifth-graders may or may not be aware of d’Amboise’s fame or the starring roles he danced in the Balanchine era. But by addressing the children individually and demanding excellence from the class, d’Amboise sets a standard for commitment in everything these kids do in their lives. Multiply this interaction by the 40,000 children NDI reaches each year, and you begin to understand the organization’s impact. (For more about NDI, click here, where Artistic Director Ellen Weinstein demonstrates a sample movement from the NDI curriculum.)
The Dance Teacher photo shoot was not unlike the high-energy NDI class we had just observed. D’Amboise sent the school maintenance crew to find him a ladder. He wanted to raise photographer Matt Murphy to a vantage point where he could capture the entire group of eight NDI faculty members, a full class of fifth-graders and d’Amboise himself in a single frame.
D’Amboise directed the group through one compositional idea after another, and in each one, the people were intertwined. “When there is space between you, the viewer looks from one to the other,” he had told the kids when they were instructed to form a line during class. “When you touch, you’re connected.”
This is the legacy d’Amboise has passed down to new generations for 35 years. And it’s the reason Dance Teacher is honoring him with this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Join us at the Dance Teacher Summit later this month to meet d’Amboise in person, along with the four inspiring educators who will receive 2011 Dance Teacher Awards—Tony Williams, Jamee Shleifer, Patricia Dickinson and Diane Frank. The DT Awards will be the highlight of the Capezio ACE Awards choreography competition, making Saturday, July 30, a fun night for all. And d’Amboise will speak at the final session of the Dance Teacher Summit, Sunday, July 31, at the Hilton New York. There’s still time to register: www.danceteachersummit.com.
In addition to the full complement of advice, how-to and news for dance educators working in all sectors and types of dance, this issue contains the 2011 Dance Teacher Dance Directory, your go-to source for products and services to help you run your business and support your career. Keep it nearby as a year-round reference.