Tanaquil Le Clercq

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Tanaquil LeClerq)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tanaquil Le Clercq
Tanaquil LeClercq as Dewdrop.png
Le Clercq as Dewdrop of the Candy Flowers in The Nutcracker, 1954
Born (1929-10-02)October 2, 1929
Paris, France
Died December 31, 2000(2000-12-31) (aged 71)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Pneumonia
Occupation Ballet dancer
Spouse(s) George Balanchine
(m. 1952; div. 1969)

Tanaquil Le Clercq (/lɛkˈlɛər/ lek-LAIR; October 2, 1929 – December 31, 2000) was a French ballet dancer and principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. Her dancing career ended abruptly when she was stricken with polio in Copenhagen during the company's European tour in 1956.[1] Eventually regaining most of the use of her arms and torso, she remained paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her life.


Le Clercq was the daughter of Jacques Le Clercq, a French intellectual, as well as French Teacher at Queens College (1950ish) and his American wife, Edith (née Whittemore). Tanaquil studied ballet with Mikhail Mordkin before auditioning for the School of American Ballet in 1941, at which time she won a scholarship there.[2]

When she was 15years old, George Balanchine asked her to perform with him in a dance he choreographed for a polio charity benefit. In an eerie portent of things to come, he played a character named Polio, and Le Clercq was his victim who became paralyzed and fell to the floor. Then, children tossed dimes at her character, prompting her to get up and dance again.

During Le Clercq's tenure with the company, Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Merce Cunningham all created roles for her. Years later, after being stricken with polio, she reemerged as a dance teacher and as one student recalled, "used her hands and arms as legs and feet."[citation needed] Le Clercq's life and career are profiled in the 2013 documentary film, Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Le Clercq was the fourth and last wife (1952–1969) of George Balanchine, but was not his final muse. He obtained a quick divorce from her to woo Suzanne Farrell, who instead married another man Paul Meja before Balanchine's divorce was finalized. Le Clercq was actually Balanchine's fifth wife as Alexandra Danilova was considered his second (common law) wife. Le Clercq died of pneumonia in New York Hospital at the age of 71.[4]




  • Shell, Marc (2005). Polio and its aftermath: the paralysis of culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01315-8. 
  • Brubach, Holly; Lassalle, Nancy; Bourscheidt, Randall; Martins, Peter (2004). Tanaquil Le Clercq 1929-2000. New York: Eakins Press Foundation. 

External links[edit]