#TBT Dance Crush: Tanaquil Le Clercq

We all have dance crushes. But I'm a bit of a weirdo: The majority of my dance crushes are, uh, historical. Maybe I was born in the wrong era, because it's the artists of the '40s, '50s and '60s who really speak to me.

At the top of my crush list is Tanaquil Le Clercq, one of George Balanchine's first American muses (and his fourth wife). Why do I love her? Because she was effortlessly glamorous...

LeClercq in costume for La Valse, 1951 (photo Gjon Mili/Life magazine)

...but also totally down for photos like this:

LeClercq in costume for Bourée Fantasque, 1951 (photo Gjon Mili/Life magazine)

Le Clercq—friends called her Tanny—was one of the first dancers trained from the beginning in Balanchine technique, and her long, leggy body became the prototype for the Balanchine ballerina. She was also an incredible chameleon. Onstage, she could transition easily from coolly mysterious to deliciously witty. Balanchine made many ballets for her, and so did Jerome Robbins, one of her closest friends.

Le Clercq's career was cut short by tragedy. In 1956, when she was just 27 years old, she contracted polio, and became paralyzed from the waist down. Though she never danced again, she remained active in the ballet world. Later on, she coached the members of Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Why am I telling you all this right now? Well, there's a new documentary about Le Clercq's remarkable life—and it's coming to a television near you in just a couple of weeks. Tanaquil Le Clercq: Afternoon of a Faun will air on PBS on Friday, June 20 (check local listings for times). The film includes all kinds of fantastic old footage, early performances of ballets that have since become classics.

PBS has put out a couple of teasers, which feature clips of Le Clercq in Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun (alongside fellow legend Jacques d'Amboise) and Balanchine's Concerto Barocco and Western Symphony. Take a look—then set your DVRs for the 20th. (Totally in love with Tanny? The film will also be available on DVD starting June 24.)

Latest Posts


Because you know you've always wondered... (Getty Images)

Sounding Off: Here's What Your Favorite Musicians Think of Dance Routines Set to Their Songs

In the competition world, a small group of musicians has attained almost cultlike status, with choreographers turning to their tracks over and over. We know how we feel about these bangers—there's a reason we can't stop dancing to them—but how do the musicians feel about us? We caught up with three contemporary artists whose music has dominated the competition scene recently, and gauged their reactions to the dances set to their life's work.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
King Kong on Broadway (Joan Marcus, courtesy Bonneau/Brian-Brown)

Follow the Path of a Broadway Musical from Concept to Opening Night

The curtain rises, the crowd goes wild, and the bright lights of Broadway shine down as you make your debut on opening night…it's every Broadway baby's dream. But you may be surprised to learn that a show's journey to the Great White Way can be months, or even years, in the making. How does a production go from concept to curtain call? We spoke to industry veterans about what happens at every stage.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Jordan Fisher (center) in a dance scene from Work It (Brendan Adam-Zwelling/Netflix)

Here's Why Jordan Fisher Thinks You Should Be Excited for Netflix's New Dance Film, "Work It"

If you're looking for a sign that 2020 might *just* be turning around, look no further than Netflix's new dance-centric film Work It. The movie comes out this Friday, August 7, and the hype is real. ICYMI, the film follows high school senior Quinn Ackerman, played by none other than Sabrina Carpenter, as she attempts to lead her dance team to a competition win in order to bolster her chances of being admitted to the college of her dreams. One small challenge: Quinn isn't a dancer.

Enter Jordan Fisher as Jake Taylor, a talented-but-troubled choreographer and dancer, to help Quinn lead the team. We had the chance to speak with Fisher about his experience on set, and why Work It just might be the dance movie we've all been waiting for.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search