Tony Award nominees Laura Osnes, Tony Yazbeck, and Norm Lewis took the stage at the National Dance Institute in celebration of Jacques d'Amboise’s 85th birthday.
The November 18 event, directed by Tony nominee Terrence Mann, honored the dance legend, who worked closely with George Balanchine at the New York City Ballet and founded the non-profit arts education organization National Dance Institute.
For the past four decades, NDI has been teaching children in New York City public schools to dance for free. The program currently serves over 40 NYC schools, impacting the lives of 60,000 children and their communities globally.
A host of Broadway alums spoke about the impact d'Amboise has had on their personal and professional lives, including New York City Ballet dancer Robert Fairchild, who received a Tony nomination for his Broadway bow in An American in Paris.
"You were such a champion for me and then comes the world premiere [of An American in Paris] and you flew all the way to Paris," he told the audience. "I always thought I wanted to be like Gene Kelly, but I just didn’t know you yet."
Fairchild's dance partner Sterling Hyltin also revealed how the ballet master has impacted her life.
"I’m wearing this sweater tonight because you gave it to me the very first time I came here to NDI," she said. "I want you to know that I warm up for every New York City Ballet performance I’ve done for the past 10 years wearing this," she continued. "You have shared all of my performances with me."
The evening also featured segments from the children of NDI, who performed a traditional "clog dance," which d’Amboise taught to people in 1999 while hiking the Appalachian Trail.
"Along the way I taught it to everyone: prisoners in jail in Vermont, the Falcon football team in Georgia. Everyone," d’Amboise explained.
Director Terrence Mann, d’Amboise's son-in-law and a Tony Award nominee for Pippin, Beauty and the Beast, and Les Misérables, told Playbill that every person he asked to be involved in the gala event immediately said yes.
“He really made me aware of telling a story, because that’s why we’re all here: to tell stories,” he said. “His incredible passion and energy for the artist, I mean he was Balanchine’s muse, that’s never been lost in him,” Mann continued. “He’s larger than life and one of those movers and shakers. To him the artist is everything, and we truly see the world through the artist’s eyes.”