When Jacques met Carolyn…

November 17th, 2008

Inside Thirteen blogger: Lisa Batchelder, Team Manager, Communications

Publicists are always looking for story angles. To promote the upcoming GREAT PERFORMANCES broadcast of The Nutcracker, I thought I’d ask a few cultural types to share anecdotes about the first time they ever saw The Nutcracker. The idea was to spin their quotes into a pitch about what a wonderful way The Nutcracker is to introduce kids to the arts. My pursuit led me to the legendary American dancer/choreographer Jacques d’Amboise, and I was rewarded with a great story.

d’Amboise and Balanchine
(photo by Carolyn George)

Jacques, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, has performed in literally thousands of Nutcrackers over the years. (“Literally?” I asked incredulously. “Literally,” he responded, without even the slightest hint of weariness in his voice. Gotta admire a guy like that.) As it turns out, his first Nutcracker was actually New York’s as well — the premiere of George Balanchine‘s new production, back in 1954. d’Amboise recalls:

“I was supposed to dance the lead, but there was a conflict — I was stuck in L.A. shooting the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and it had run into overtime. But I wanted to be at the premiere, so I managed to make it back to New York — just barely. I rushed straight to City Center, dropped my bags backstage, and raced up to my seat.

I was sitting with Balanchine and Lincoln Kerstein in the front mezzanine. I was just 19 years old, and I couldn’t take my eyes off this one girl. She was dancing ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ and her name was Carolyn George. Well, I fell in love with her…and I married her!

To this day I can remember the exact seat I sat in for the New York premiere of The Nutcracker.”

Now, how sweet is that?

Tell us about the first time you saw The Nutcracker — and be sure to watch the San Francisco Ballet’s outstanding production on GREAT PERFORMANCES on Dec. 17 at 8:00 pm here in New York.