Teaching and performing the "Appalachian Jig"
11 a .m.
Wednesday, Oct. 13
Tredegar Gun Foundry
359-0906 What do a mortician, a sheriff, a football team, prisoners, a taxidermist, a Harvard professor, police officers and thousands of children have in common? They've all danced Jacques d'Amboise's "Appalachian Jig." This former principal dancer for the New York City Ballet has spent the last four months hiking the Appalachian Trail with his son George, teaching his dance to raise awareness about the need for arts education. His hike, which began in Maine in late May, is d'Amboise's latest effort for his New York-based organization, National Dance Institute, which fosters a love for dance and the arts. By the time he completes the 2,160 miles through 14 states, he'll have made 32 stops to teach his jig, requesting that all participants teach the dance to at least two other people and asking also that they contribute a penny, a dime, a dollar, whatever they can, to his goal of raising more than a million dollars for scholarships for inner-city children. D'Amboise's commitment is nothing less than passionate. Since 1984 when he retired after 35 years as a professional dancer, he's worked full-time for the NDI, traveling several months of the year to ensure that any child, regardless of skill or economic background, gets exposure to art. His enthusiasm is infectious. Deaf, withdrawn, uncoordinated or shy children who are typically reluctant to dance, start moving after an hour with d'Amboise. "Dance is magical," he explains. He wants as many people to know "the sheer fun of using their bodies creatively. I tell people, stick your hand out like you're going to shake someone's hand. Wave it back and forth. That's dance! Dance is controlled rhythmic movement. It's a necessity to life." During his hike, he's struggled with black flies, leg leeches, blisters, muscle aches, cold and encounters with bears. Considering that he's approaching his 65th birthday and suffers difficulties from the lingering effects of several foot and knee injuries, common among ballet dancers, you recognize the determination of this man. Despite the challenging long hours of solitude during daily 20-mile hikes through arduous terrain and a loss of 22 pounds, he finds ample energy to dance his jig on rock ledges and clearings in a field, and to teach the dance to fellow hikers. "Step-by-Step," and his son, "George of the Jungle" (they've adopted the tradition of hikers adopting a trail name) fully intend to continue their journey until they reach Georgia in December. The Richmond Ballet, which adopted its acclaimed Minds in Motion program from NDI, is co-sponsoring d'Amboise's visit to Richmond along with Bell Atlantic. D'Amboise will teach the Appalachian jig to whomever is interested when he appears at the Tredegar Gun Foundry Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 11 a.m. Then it's right back to the wilderness for d'Amboise and his