"Jacques d'Amboise & guest artist" was the program inscription next to the opening number on D'Amboise's new production, "Encounter with Dance," Saturday night in the Kennedy Center's children's festival.
And it should have suggested to the reader that something far more special than the usual dance-music appreciation fare had been put together by the eminent New York City Ballet principal dance of almost of almost three decades.
The "guest artist" turned out to be Kay Mazzo, who was partnered by D'Amboise in two of George Balanchine's most magisterial creations, the pas de deux sections from "Scotch Symphony" and from the concluding "Diamonds" movement of "Jewels".
D'Amboise was apologetic about the bareness of the settings in the Terrace Theater. In "Scotch Symphony," he told the invited audience, most of them participants of the day-long conference of the National Committee, Arts for the Handicapped, that, "You'll just have to remember that there's a castle back over in the corner of the stage." But when Balanchine's precise geometrics and intricate rhythms are danced with such assurance and accuracy, such details seem hardly to matter.
These moments, though, were just the icing on the cake during an evening in which D'Amboise showed with clarity and lack of stuffiness what ballet is all about. Ballet's air of remoteness was removed at no loss to purity of expression.
Declaring that, "The whole idea of the dance is a visual expression of time," he then let students he has been teaching in the New York public schools illustrate his points. Most of the students are deaf, and thus cut off from the time references around which most dancers organize movement. "The best cues for most of these boys are the drums because they can see the rhythm being tapped in the pit," D'Amboise said.
Two boys, Peter McCarrick and Robert Daly, got individual lessons in which they learned steps from following D'Amboise's example. Next came a remarkably talented youth, Yosuke Onoda, who because he could hear, served as a point man in the group dances in which the boys were joined by girls from Bene Arnold's Utah group of the deaf.Yosuke showed such flair that his mentor called his talent "remarkable" are blurted out, "Look out, Baryshnikov. Somebody's coming up behind you." Finally, D'Amboise's son, Christopher, joined the evening with excerpts now rising in the City Ballet, joined the evening with excepts from Balanchine's settings of Gershwin songs called "Who Cares?"
The show soon will move to children's festivals in Chicago and Seattle, then later to an extravaganza at New York's Felt Forum with Baryshnikov among the guests.
Japan's Kabuki drama is an acquired tast for most Westerners. Indeed, unlike scotch whiskey, Beluga caviar and fine cigars, the younger one comes to like it the easier. Thus the Empire State Theater's sumptuous staging of "Sleeping Beautty" a la Japonerie found its rightful place in the current Kenndedy Center childrenhs festival last night.
The children in the Terrace Theater audience seemed noisily delighted with seeing one of their most familiar stories told in Kabuki convention-brilliant costumes, delicate screens, stylized gestures, karate fights and all. Those who were less stirred by this version than Tchaikovsky's can attributed it to old age. Public repeats are at 7 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Friday.