D'Amboise in the 1956 film "Carousel." Photo courtesy DM Archives.

#TBT: Jacques d'Amboise in "Carousel" (1956)

Earlier this week, the Broadway revival of Roger and Hammerstein's Carousel, choreographed by Justin Peck and featuring New York City Ballet dancers Amar Ramasar and Brittany Pollack, was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, including Best Choreography.


Today, we're throwing it back to the 1956 film version, which features an earlier NYCB star: longtime principal Jacques d'Amboise. He plays the Starlight Carnival barker alongside Susan Luckey's Louise in the musical's famous ballet. (The choreography is based on Agnes DeMille's, from the original Broadway production.) With casual swagger and his trademark enthusiasm, d'Amboise seems like just a regular guy—until he's starts jumping. He finishes off a series of four consecutive double tours (at 3:15) with a triumphant toss of the head, then hangs midair in his double cabrioles, showing off his spectacular beats before he even thinks about landing. Later, he joins Luckey for a swooning pas de deux, lifting her so effortlessly through a spiral at 5:39 that you forget he's only holding her with one arm.

Carousel was not d'Amboise's only foray into Hollywood musicals—he played Ephraim in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and danced a steamy duet in The Best Things in Life Are Free. But even though he gave memorable performances on film, his home was on the ballet stage. In his 2011 autobiography Once A Dancer, d'Amboise reflects on dancing in movies: "I found it difficult to sustain enthusiasm when you stop and start, stop and start, and by the end of the day, you've only danced a few steps. Performing with a ballet company, you're in conversation with the audience, not the camera; it's immediate, and there's no going back to redo, repair or camouflage." Happy #TBT!

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