With the death of the renowned dancer, Jacques d’Amboise, on May 3, the world lost a creative genius.
Jacques was a dear personal friend, and it was my great honor to be part of his extended family. He had friends from all walks of life, all ages, and all spheres of interest and brought them together at his home as well as through his work. He was interested in everything and everybody —and curious about how the brain worked and how galaxies formed as well as about culture, literature, music, history, philosophy, and humor across the globe. He wrote beautiful poetry and shared it widely with his friends. If you went to see him, he always had a little gift for you—and a set of new ideas he had been thinking about.
Jacques was one of the founding members of the Mega-Cities Project Board of Directors in 1987 and a great enthusiast of our work. He often said in public—sometimes at his own dance events, that if he were not consumed by the National Dance Institute he founded, he would be working with the Mega-Cities Project. He contributed generously with his connections, commitment, and charitable contributions through good and hard times alike. He passed up the invitation to be Balanchine’s successor at the NY Ballet in order to work with kids in low-income neighborhoods and expand the audience for dance beyond the upper-class elite.
Many of us grew up watching Jacques dance on stage and on film—an unforgettable experience. I met him in person in 1980 when I was in NY on leave from the University of California Berkeley. The NYT Magazine ran a story about his plan to incorporate New York Policemen in his 1982 Event of the Year: Fat City. It would feature Christopher d’Amboise, Judy Collins, Patricia McBride, Mary Tyler Moore, and Kevin Kline dancing with 1,000 Public School kids at Madison Square Garden. I brought a Detective called El Rubio from the 26 precincts to meet Jacques and he, in turn, recruited all the rookies he was training. That is how I got invited to dance with them as an undercover civilian.
Jacques traveled with the Mega-Cities Project to our meeting in Jakarta in 1994 and went with us to East Kalimantan by boat up to the Dyack villages.
It is almost impossible to imagine an energy field of such effervesces moving on to another realm —it leaves a huge void. But how lucky we were to have had him here inspiring all of us and making us laugh.