#TBT: Jacques d'Amboise and Melissa Hayden in "Don Quixote" (1962)

May 19, 2021

The dance community said goodbye to a hero earlier this month with the passing of Jacques d’Amboise. D’Amboise joined New York City Ballet as a teenager in 1949 and danced with the company for 35 years, leaving an undeniable mark on American ballet. He originated roles in many of Balanchine’s works, including Jewels, Stars and Stripes and Who Cares?, and was acclaimed for his interpretation of Apollo. He also danced in Hollywood movie musicals like Carousel and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

On several occasions, d’Amboise performed on television in variety shows. In this 1962 clip from a broadcast of “Voice of Firestone,” he dances the pas de deux from Don Quixote alongside his frequent partner, Melissa Hayden. Hayden, who passed away in 2006, was also a leading dancer with NYCB, creating iconic roles in the company’s repertoire.

Their performance opens with the two dancers in a striking silhouette. Hayden and d’Amboise maintain that same regal poise throughout the pas de deux. Their comfort and trust in one another as partners makes intricate dance passages, like Hayden’s pirouette into a fouetté at 2:40, look breezy. In their variations, dAmboise shows his verve and vigor with a buoyant manège of double cabrioles, while Hayden’s quick ronds de jambe en l’air, échappés and hops on pointe spark with life. The coda proves that speed is no match for either of them, as d’Amboise soars with articulate assemblés battus and Hayden tackles fouettés en dedans and en dehors with aplomb.

Throughout their performance, d’Amboise and Hayden take pride and pleasure in their dancing. Their passion for the art is something they both strove to pass on to others during their careers. Following her retirement, Hayden taught at Skidmore College, Pacific Northwest Ballet School and North Carolina School of the Arts. D’Amboise founded the National Dance Institute in 1976. The organization, which has grown to serve thousands of children, provides free dance education to students in New York City to experience the confidence and joy that comes with taking part in this art form. D’Amboise’s true generosity in sharing his love of dance will be dearly missed. Happy #ThrowbackThursday.