Alastair Macaulay mourns two ballet losses

Alastair Macaulay mourns two ballet losses

Alastair Macaulay

norman lebrecht

May 04, 2021

The former chief dance critic of the New York Times reflects for us on the lives of Jacques d’Amboise and Mark Lancaster:

Jacques d’Amboise, always so energetic, so vital, so enthusiastic has died, aged eighty-six. He often told how George Balanchine described the role of Apollo as “a wild boy made civilised by art”; but there was little doubt that Jacques felt the same about himself. He had the wildness in him to take him in other, more dangerous directions, but ballet, above all George Balanchine, transformed him, introducing him to music, poetry and the other arts. Having discovered dance, he never let go of it. 

Born in July 1934, he must have matured physically with uncommon speed. When he was only seventeen, Frederick Ashton singled him out in 1952 to be Tristram/Tristan to Diana Adams’s Iseult/Isolde in “Picnic at Tintagel”. D’Amboise was keenly aware not only that he had been chosen for a romantic leading role at an exceptionally early age but also that Balanchine, his beloved master, began to exhibit bad signs of professional jealousy, principally because Ashton, Balanchine’s exact contemporary, had chosen Adams for his ballerina. Balanchine would spy at keyholes and mess with rehearsal schedules…


Read on here.


The British-American artist Mark Lancaster (1938-2021) died on Sunday 30 April, aged eighty-two. He was responsible for many of the greatest and most poetic stage designs of the twentieth century, chiefly as designer for Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1975-1984 (with some return visits). 

British born, he began to visit New York from 1964 onward. In 1968, he was invited to be the first-ever artist in residence to King’s College, Cambridge; he made friends there with E.M. Forster, George “Dadie” Rylands, and others. In 1972, he was one of six British artists commissioned by Richard Buckle to paint something in response to Titian’s “The Death of Actaeon”, when there was a nationwide campaign to save that painting for the U.K.. a little later, he worked in New York as assistant and secretary to Jasper Johns… Read on here.




  • V.Lind says:

    I doubt there are any danseurs nobles left — not sure D’Amboise had the rep to be considered one, though he had the talent.

  • Westfan says:

    He was a wonderful, charismatic dancer, and the National Dance Institute was a great idea that he sparked. I remember going to see the NYC Ballet at Lincoln Center in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, you could get student rush tickets in the top balcony for $2.50-$5! I was lucky to see so many great dancers and ballets there. Wonderful memories!

  • jansumi says:

    The letters from Jacques shared by Alistair at the end of his article say it all. What an expansive joyful spirit blessed this world. So lucky, those who knew him.