Friday, April 8, 2011

Jill Krementz covers National Dance Institute Gala

While teaching kids how to dance, Jacques d'Amboise redefines the law of gravity.
Photographed by Jill Krementz on May 13, 1982.
National Dance Institute
Annual Gala
Monday, April 4, 2011
Best Buy Theater

In 1976, while still a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, Jacques d'Amboise founded National Dance Instititute (known as NDI) in the belief that the arts have a unique power to engage and motivate individuals towards excellence. Since then 40,000 students have followed this irresistible pied piper.

I have been photographing Jacques d'Amboise, and his family, for the past four decades, starting in the early 1970's when he was a principal dancer with NYCB. He has as much energy now as he had back then.

Last month Knopf published Mr. d'Amboise's autobiography, I Was A Dancer, which has already gone into a third printing and is a must-read for anyone who loves ballet or believes in teaching kids how to soar.

This week NDI celebrated the arts at its annual gala honoring Alec Baldwin, Ron Moelis, Shirley Young, and Cisco (the company, not the rapper). The evening's emcee was actor Terrence Mann and guests were treated to performances by the talented, and energetic, children of National Dance Institute.
Jacques d'Amboise's recent autobiography, I Was A Dancer (Alfred A. Knopf), which has just gone into its third printing.

The memoir gives us an intimate glimpse into all the years he spent with George Balanchine, Lincoln Kirstein, and Jerome Robbins. Mr. d'Amboise danced with, and choreographed for, the great dancers of our time.
17-year-old Jackson Hinden and 15-year-old Megan O'Dell are NDI alumni as well as students at Laguardia High School. They were standing outside the Best Buy Theater (on the corner of 44th and Broadway) where they welcomed guests arriving at the annual benefit. Jacques d'Amboise with the legendary ballerina, Allegra Kent. Ms. Kent is teaching ballet at Barnard and writing occasionally for Dance Magazine. She wrote one of my favorite books about the world of dance, her autobiography, Once A Dancer.
Jacques d'Amboise welcomes writer Hannah Pakula. Ms. Pakula's historical biography The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China is now available in paperback.
Artist Faith Ringgold, whose beautiful quilts are in many museum collections, including those at MoMA and The National Portrait Gallery. The Mishkin family: Budd Mishkin, who can be seen on NY 1, his wife, Peri Smilow, a talented singer who performed later in the evening, and their daughter Allie.
Tracey Struas, the associate artistic director
of NDI.
Finbar McCoy, a pug who is the NDI mascot, wearing a green tutu.
Terry Mann with his wife, Charlotte d'Amboise. Mr. Mann is an actor who has appeared in many Broadway musicals including Cats, Les Miz, Beauty and the Beast and most recently The Addams Family. I have known Charlotte since the days when I wrote A Very Young Dancer and she was dancing for Mr. Balanchine in Midsummer's Night Dream. She went on to have a role in Chorus Line, which was later documented in a documentary film, Every Little Step.

The couple has two daughters, Shelby, 7, and Josephine, 8, who apparently are following in their mother's toe shoes as they are both students at The School of American Ballet and last year appeared in NYCB's annual production of The Nutcracker.

Mr. Mann emceed the evening.
I started photographing the d'Amboise family in the early '70s when I began work on my book, A Very Young Dancer. The d'Amboise twins were both students at The New York City Ballet, along with Stephanie Selby, the young dancer I followed for a year. Charlotte and Catherine were in the NYCB's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, as shown in the photograph here. Later that year they were both polichinelles, the cute little clowns who are hidden under Mother Ginger's skirt. Their older brother Christopher was also in that season's Nutcracker. He was in the scene where Clara is sleeping in the pretty white bed and holding her wooden nutcracker--just before everything starts to grow, especially the tree. The nutcracker turns into a prince and has a fight with the mice and the Mouse King. Under that bed, and making it move around the stage of The New York State Theater, was an invisible Christopher d'Amboise, wearing knee pads.
In October of 1980 I took more photographs of the d'Amboise family.
Chris d'Amboise playing the piano in the family's Upper West Side brownstone while his sister Charlotte sings. Jacques and Christoper on their way to Mr. B's dance class at the New York State Theater.
Darci Kistler in a rehearsal studio at NYCB, flanked by dancers Christopher d'Amboise, and Chris's father, Jacques d'Amboise. This is was the first time I photographed Darci. I was working on a story for People which was about the young Chris d'Amboise. My caption sheet which is in my archive says: "You should definitely use a picture of Darci Kistler, that is if you don't do a separate story on her. She is the hottest dancer now with NYCB and Balanchine is choreographing separate ballets for her. She opened the Washington season dancing lead in Swan Lake. She's only 16. See Washington Post Style section, October 17th, 1980."
Jacques and Christopher d'Amboise rehearsing with Darci Kistler.
Christopher and Jacques d'Amboise talking with Suzanne Farrell.
Jacques and Christopher rehearse together at NYCB.
Another story in 1982, this time for People magazine.
In May of 1982 I photographed Jacques d'Amboise for a three page story which finally ran in the September 11, 1982 issue of People. Those were the good old days of what we're already referring to as "print journalism" where stories could be stockpiled for months. This one certainly was.
Jacques with folksinger Judy Collins, who was an early supporter, and participant, of NDI. I photographed them in a rehearsal room at the New York State Theater.
"I tell the kids right away that we're going to learn to dance and it's hard, not easy," says d'Amboise. This time though, rehearsing a scene with Beth Feinberg, 10, he loses a little wind himself.
In addition to teaching young kids to dance, NDI taught New York's finest, our cops, how to dance.
One of the officers told Jacques: "We can come here after arresting someone for grand larceny and just let all the tension out."
Jacques d'Amboise partnering with NYCB's Karin von Aroldingen.
Photographed on May 23, 1982 by Jill Krementz.
Jacues introduces one of his young dancers, 10-year-old Laurent Castellucci, to George Balanchine. On the left is Carolyn George, Jacques' wife who danced with NYCB and later worked as a photographer. I greatly admired her work. Sadly, Carrie, as she was known, died two years ago.
George Balanchine and Jacques d'Amboise. Photographed on May 23, 1982 by Jill Krementz.
It's 1990 and Jacques d'Amboise is teaching sight-impaired students at
the Lighthouse.
On January 20, 1990 I photographed Jacques again. I was working on my book, How it Feels to Have a Physical Disabilty, which had a chapter devoted to Ivonne Mosquera.

Ivonne had lost her sight at the age of fifteen months as a result of having cancerous tumors removed from both eyes.

When she was 13 she began taking ballet and jazz classes with d'Amboise at the Lighthouse for the Blind here in Manhattan.

NDI is still involved with teaching young people like Ivonne how to dance.
So here we are again. It's 2011 and Jacques is STILL teaching people how to kick up their heels. In this instance, teaching a dance move to Ron Moelis, one of the evening's honorees, and to Gayle King.
Yineth Sulton, 8, and Emily Fassberg, 7, are both "old timers" with NDI. Emma Lawrence, who is "almost 7" relaxes with
a book.
Lineup of program posted backstage. The young dancers who will later appear on stage as golden delicious apples with their team captain, Anya Chang, who has been working at NDI for three years.
These young gentlemen are relaxing in their dressing room before their appearance in a number called "Shall We Dance?"
Some of the older girls.
Max Brill. Kevin Nakagarwa, 10, goes to P.S. 199.

"I hope you enjoy the performance," he said to me after I had taken a photograph of him.
The gala guests.
Judy Weston and Jacques d'Amboise. Mrs. Weston is one of NDI's most generous supporters and during the auction she was the first to raise her hand and adopt a school for $25,000.
Susan and John Fullerton (Mr. Fullerman is Chairman of NDI's Board), Andrea Shindle, and Arlyn Gardner.
Jacques d'Amboise with Robert Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein served as President of Random House for 25 years. He has devoted his life to human rights.
Juliana Wellington Koo is Shirley Young's mother. She is 105 and still going strong. My husband Kurt Vonnegut and I went to her 100th birthday which was held at the Rainbow Room. We pooped out shortly after midnight but she was still out on the dance floor when we said our goodbyes. Shirley Young with her sister, Gene Young, and her mother, Mrs. Wellington Koo. Gene just celebrated her 80th so she's no slouch either when it comes to living long and looking great.
Shirley Young and her three sons, David, Bill, and Doug who, left to right, are in their birth order. Years ago when I did a story on Shirley, who was then running Grey advertising, she told me that each of her three sons had been born over the long Thanksgiving weekends. This is a woman who knows how to plan her life. As Chairman of the US-China Cultural Institute she now commutes between New York City and Shanghai on a regular basis.
Kerry and Ron Moelis.

Mr. Moelis is the co-founder and CEO of L&M Development partners, who has helped develop the P.S. 90 building in Harlem which will house NDI's new home.
Maragret Anadu with whom I sat during dinner. Ms. Anadu is from Nigeria and a graduate of Harvard. "I work in the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs which financed both P.S. 90 and the actual community facility space where NDI is expanding. This will be their first permanent home which they can call their own."
The show begins.
Jacques d'Amboise welcomes the guests who attended the sold out evening. Ellen Weinstein, the Artistic Director of NDI.
Shirley Young, one of the four honorees of the evening, on stage with three of her seven grandchildren.
The show begins! "Shall We Dance?" performed by the NDI Celebration Team.
Introducing the next dance: "My Father."
Peri Smilow is singing the words to "My Father," composed and written by Judy Collins. Cai Hall is the young dancer.
Cai Hall and Gregor Gillen.
The Red Thread, inspired by a Chinese folk tale, featuring NDI alumna Andrea Ting.
The golden delicious apples perform.
Finbar McCoy, the pug who is the NDI mascot, makes an entrance.
Alec Baldwin pirouettes on to the stage. He began his remarks saying "It's about time you gave me an award for dance!"
Baldwin went on to describe Jacques d'Amboise as 'the Richard Nixon' of dance with the Mao jacket and bringing NDI to China. He then talked about his own profession: "Acting is what you do when you have no rythym ... when your body is worthless. No one ever goes to the ballet and says, 'I could do this.'"
The evening concluded with a spirited auction conducted by Christie's Lydia Fenet. Ms. Fenet was able to coax $300,000 from an enthusiastic crowd which included dinner at Rao's for 6 ($20,000) and adopting a school ($25,000). The total amount raised by the gala for NDI was $1.275 million. What a night!
This photojournal is dedicated, with love, to Carolyn George (1927-2009). It was while she was soloist at NYCB that Carrie met her husband Jacques. They married on New Year's Day in 1956, and had four great children. Carrie abandoned her toe shoes, took up a camera, and became a widely respected photographer. We all miss her.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz
all rights reserved.