JACQUES D'AMBOISE AND MERRILL ASHLEY TAPE VIDEO SERIES FOR THE GEORGE BALANCHINE FOUNDATION VIDEO ARCHIVES
New York City — Working with Miami City Ballet principal soloist dancers Lauren Fadeley and Chase Swatosh, d'Amboise and Ashley coached on camera the central roles from Diamonds, the finale of the plotless three-act Jewels. The recording was held Monday, June 3rd, 2019 at the New York City Ballet studios in the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York. Nancy McDill, solo pianist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, accompanied the coaching session. At its conclusion Wendy Whelan, former NYCB principal dancer and current Associate Artistic Director of NYCB, interviewed d'Amboise and Ashley. The recording was supervised by Paul Boos, Video Archives Project Associate, aided by the Video Archives founder Nancy Reynolds, former film professor Virginia Brooks, and filmmaker Gus Reed.
The resulting video will become part of the GBF Video Archives, now numbering nearly sixty programs. The aim of this series is to document insights of the originators or important later interpreters of key roles in the Balanchine repertory and to preserve and pass on this knowledge, particularly including references to Balanchine's ideas at the time of creation, to the dancers, scholars, and audiences of today. The GBF Video Archives are available world-wide through educational institutions and libraries. In addition, the interview components are available on the Balanchine Foundation's YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/blnchn).
Describing Diamonds, New York Times critic Clive Barnes wrote, "Balanchine has gone back to his imperial Russian childhood … but never with more confidence or more high-style panache, evoking truly classic grandeur." Robert Garis, critiquing the entire Jewels trilogy, wrote "I like being reminded again of the supreme theatrical instinct that links Balanchine with Shakespeare and Mozart as the kind of genius who can obey and even enjoy and want the necessity of pleasing an audience." Diamonds' majestic mood clearly was designed to bring down the house, first with the pas de deux' intangible love affair, then with a scherzo of bravura technical brilliance, and finally with a thrilling massed climax.
JACQUES D'AMBOISE joined the New York City Ballet at fifteen, became a principal dancer at seventeen, and remained so for the next thirty-five years. During his career he had more works choreographed for him by George Balanchine than any other dancer. Among the most remarkable Diamonds, with Suzanne Farrell. D'Amboise now leads the field of arts education with a model program that exposes thousands of school children to the magic and discipline of dance. In 1976, he founded National Dance Institute in the belief that the arts have a unique power to engage and motivate individuals towards excellence. He is the author of Teaching the Magic of Dance and his recent memoir, I was a Dancer. For previous Balanchine Foundation archival videos he coached leading roles in excerpts from Apollo, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Episodes, Stars and Stripes and Who Cares?
MERRILL ASHLEY was awarded one of the first Ford Foundation Scholarships to attend the School of American Ballet. In 1967, Balanchine invited her to join the New York City Ballet and in 1974, just prior to her promotion to soloist, she debuted in Diamonds, which she performed thereafter for over two decades. In 1977, the year Balanchine choreographed his first ballet for her, Ballo della Regina, Ashley was promoted to principal dancer. In 1980, Balanchine created Ballade on her, one of his last ballets. Ashley retired on November 25, 1997 at a gala celebration. In summing up her career, the Wall Street Journal said, "she basically taught the world how ballet is danced." Currently, Ashley stages Balanchine ballets and teaches at schools and companies all over the world. For the Interpreters Archive she previously taught and coached Ballo della Regina and Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.
LAUREN FADELEY began her dance training in Orlando, FL and later moved to New York City to study full time at the School of American Ballet. Fadeley was invited by Peter Martins to join NYCB and after two years with NYCB, she decided to further her academic and dance education by attending Indiana University. In May 2007, she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Ballet Performance with an outside field in Kinesiology. From there, she joined the Pennsylvania Ballet in the fall of 2007, was promoted to Soloist for the 2011 season and soon after to Principal Dancer. It was during her nine seasons at Pennsylvania Ballet, she was taught Diamonds by Merrill Ashley. Fadeley joined Miami City Ballet as a soloist in 2016 and was promoted to principal soloist in 2017.
CHASE SWATOSH began his dance training in Agoura Hills, CA. In 2007, he became a trainee at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City before attending the summer and winter terms of the School of American Ballet (2009-2010). In addition to a diversified dance background, having trained in tap, jazz, contemporary, musical theater and modern, Swatosh also was a Junior Olympic swimmer, an All-American qualifying diver in high school, and an awarded classically trained pianist. He joined Miami City Ballet as an apprentice in 2010 and was promoted to corps de ballet in 2012. He was promoted to soloist in 2016.
WENDY WHELAN is a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and performed with the company for 30 years. She was a guest artist with The Royal Ballet and the Kirov Ballet and has performed all over the U.S., South America, Europe, and Asia. Whelan has also been an influential guest artist with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. In 2019, she was named Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet.
NANCY REYNOLDS, a former dancer with New York City Ballet, has been the Director of Research for The George Balanchine Foundation since 1994. She conceived and continues to direct the Video Archives program. She is also the author of several dance books. In 2013, she received a "Bessie" award for "outstanding service to the field of dance."
PAUL BOOS, since 2015 the Video Archive Project Associate, is a former dancer with NYCB and répétiteur for the George Balanchine Trust. He teaches abroad and locally.
VIRGINIA BROOKS, Professor Emerita of Film at Brooklyn College/CUNY and director of several dance documentaries, has been an editor of the Balanchine Foundation's Video Archives since its inception in 1994.
GUS REED, a New York City-based filmmaker, specializes in creating video for and with dance. He has served as an editor of the Balanchine Foundation's Video Archives since the fall of 2014.
The George Balanchine Foundation (www.balanchine.org) is a not-for-profit corporation established in 1983. Its mission is to create programs that educate the public and further Balanchine's work and aesthetic with the goal of advancing high standards of excellence in dance and its allied arts.