Book Talk: D'Amboise leaps over bullies, grabs stars

Thu Apr 7, 2011 6:00am EDT
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By Chelsea Emery

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - It was really about the bullies. Joseph Ahearn began ballet lessons in the 1940s not to better his basketball game or impress girls but to overcome the bullies who tormented him.

The young Ahearn, who became the celebrated dancer Jacques d'Amboise, dreamed of bounding over the heads of his childhood tormentors in the Washington Heights section of New York.

Perhaps studying dance would give him the agility to escape bullies and amaze his friends with feats of strength, he thought.

It worked. The former 'street boy' rose rapidly through the classical ballet ranks. He traveled the world with choreographer George Balanchine, appeared in movies such as 1954's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and choreographed for the New York City Ballet.

Along the way, d'Amboise founded the National Dance Institute, giving a new generation the skills to soar over their persecutors.

He spoke to Reuters about his new memoir "I Was a Dancer," his childhood name change and technology's impact on classical ballet.

Q: Why did your mother change the family's name to d'Amboise from Ahearn?

A: "She was 4 foot 9 and stubborn and determined and dreaming, always dreaming, of her children being on the stage as actors, actresses, dancers, singers, whatever.   Continued...