Anyone who has seen Tanaquil Le Clercq dance simply cannot forget the experience. The beloved prima ballerina's unusual stature and unique style is captivating, almost mystically so.
Unfortunately the possibility of seeing Le Clercq perform was terminated prematurely. Le Clercq, or Tanny, as she's still known to friends and devoted fans, contracted polio at the height of her career, and the disabling disease prevented her from ever dancing again. That was in 1956 when, at age 27, Le Clercq was the principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and on tour with the company in Copenhagen. The effects of the disease were almost fatal. Le Clercq never danced again.
Filmmaker Nancy Buirski's wonderfully compassionate and respectful profile of Le Clercq uses archival footage to show the beautiful ballerina's great performances, as well as capture telling moments in her childhood, dance training, relationships with other dancers and with the brilliant American choreographers George Balanchine, to whom she was married from 1952 to 1969, and Jerome Robbins. Le Clercq was, as was acknowledged by both men, their muse.
She was born into a well to do family in Paris in 1929, and began training as a ballet dancer when she was a child. By the time she was fifteen, her family had moved to New York City and she was enrolled in Balanchine's American School of Ballet, where he discovered her and began casting her in principal roles. Le Clercq leaped to stardom, entirely skipping the usual career step of being a member of the corps de ballet. She was an amazing dancer whose height, energy and grace gave her an inimitable style of movement.
Fortunately some of her performances were captured on film and Buirski draws from these recordings to establish Le Clercq as the great artist she was. Add to this extraordinary archival dance footage Buirski's revealing on camera interviews with some of Tanny's friends and colleagues
The archival footage and Buirski's up close and personal interviews with some of Tanny's friends and colleagues, and the use of actors reading letters between Tanny and her friends and lovers, present an illuminating picture of Le Clercq's unique career arc, and give behind the scenes glimpses into the dancer's world and the world of dance, The film also offers compelling insights into the powerful and fascinating personalities of Balanchine and Robbins, both of whom championed Le Clercq's dancing and competed for her loyalty -- both on stage and off.
The film documents Le Clercq's devastating bout with polio, and chronicles her life after the disease took its toll on her body. She was wheelchair bound. She and Balanchine divorced. Eventually she was able to coach other dancers, which she did until her death in 2000.
Nancy Buirski's thrilling dance documentary is laced with all of the glamour, romance and tragedy that shaped Tanaquil Le Clercq's life and career. And it gives you the wonderful and unforgettable experience of seeing Tanny dance.
If You Like Afternoon of A Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, You May Also Like:
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- Title: Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq
- Director: Nancy Buirski
- Premier: September 30, 2013 at New York Film Festival
- Release Date: February 5, 2014, in limited release (New York)
- Running Time: 91 mins.
- MPAA Rating: PG-13
- Parental Advisory: Content and language advisory for parents
- Country: USA
- Language: English
- Production Companies: August Films in association with Steeplechase Films
- Distribution Company: Kino Lorber Films