Accomplished Dancer and Choreographer Joins Mason’s School of Dance

Posted: October 14, 2009 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: October 14, 2009 at 9:39 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Christopher d'amboise. Photo courtesy of Christopher d'amboise

Christopher d'Amboise. Photo courtesy of Christopher d'Amboise

Carrying on the artistic heritage of his family, Christopher d’Amboise has been rubbing elbows with dance legends such as George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins since he was too young to pronounce their names.

Now, as an assistant professor in Mason’s School of Dance, he is bringing his expertise as a performer, choreographer, playwright and artistic director into the classroom.

The son of Jacques d’Amboise and Carolyn George, two former lead dancers in the New York City Ballet (NYCB), d’Amboise was born and raised in New York City and exposed to dance at a very young age.

“I have been extremely fortunate and privileged to work with some of the best and most talented individuals in the industry at such a young age,” says d’Amboise. “Both Balanchine and Robbins, original founders of NYCB, are two of the most influential people in my life and are the foundations for the principles by which I now live and teach.”

D’Amboise joined NYCB when he was just 18 years old and retired 10 years later to chase other interests.

As a principal dancer with NYCB, d’Amboise performed in more than 50 roles, some of which were created specifically for him, in repertoire created by Balanchine, Robbins and Peter Martins, current director of NYCB. Some of the roles in which he performed are “Coppelia,” “The Four Temperaments,” “Dances at a Gathering” and “Gershwin Concerto.”

One of the high points of his career, he notes, was when he performed with NYCB and on Broadway at the same time. His performance in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical titled “Song and Dance” with actress and singer Bernadette Peters earned him a Tony Award nomination.

“For about three months, I would start the night by performing my repertoire with the New York City Ballet. Then I would jump in a limo and travel downtown so I could perform on Broadway,” says d’Amboise. “It was one of the most challenging, but exciting, times of my career.”

After leaving NYCB, d’Amboise became artistic director, president and CEO for the Pennsylvania Ballet, where he led the company through four successful seasons. D’Amboise was responsible for the company‚Äôs artistic vision and directed all aspects of the company, including teaching, training curriculum and repertoire. He presented more than 30 productions of classical repertoire and commissioned 20 new works of contemporary choreographers.

One of his most notable contributions to the Pennsylvania Ballet was the “Save the Ballet” campaign, which raised $2.5 million and helped save the company from financial ruin.

When he left the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1994, he spent the next decade traveling around the world choreographing dozens of works for both ballet and musical theater. Some of these works have been performed in London, New York, Istanbul and Copenhagen.

His first play titled “The Studio,” which he wrote, directed and choreographed, premiered in 2007 at Signature Theater in Washington, D.C. The play is about two dancers and a choreographer, and focuses on the creative process of dance.

When his interests turned to teaching, d’Amboise visited several universities looking for the perfect fit. He found it at Mason after meeting Elizabeth Price, director of the School of Dance, and the other dance faculty members with whom he shared a similar vision of empowering dancers.

D’Amboise joined Mason this fall; he currently teaches beginning and advanced ballet, beginning modern dance and advanced choreography.

“Working with both the faculty and students in the dance program is inspiring because the dedication and talent of each individual complement one another,” says d’Amboise.

“One of the things I share with the faculty is the importance of teaching dancers how to speak with dance as comfortably as they do with words. This empowers students to find their own voices with a sense of both fearlessness and authenticity.”

D’Amboise is writing a play for musical theater that he hopes to finish in early 2010.

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