Watch Friday, June 20, 2014 at 10pm on WMHT TV.
Of all the great ballerinas, Tanaquil Le Clercq (1929–2000), known as “Tanny,” was surely among the most transcendent. With a body unlike any before hers, she mesmerized viewers and choreographers alike as principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, and became a muse to both her husband George Balanchine and friend Jerome Robbins. Then, at age 27 and the height of her fame, Le Clercq was stricken with polio and paralyzed; she never danced again. Emmy- and Peabody-winning filmmaker Nancy Buirski (The Loving Story) brings Tanny’s poignant story to the screen for the first time.
To illustrate Tanny’s personality, exquisite dancing and long, racehorse physique, which became the new prototype for Balanchine’s ballet dancers, the film uses photos, home movies, kinescopes and a rare recording of her voice. American Masters — Tanaquil Le Clercq: Afternoon of a Faun also features new interviews with those who knew her, including fellow New York City Ballet dancers Jacques d’Amboise and Arthur Mitchell as well as friends Randy Bourscheidt (former president of the Alliance for the Arts), Barbara Horgan (Balanchine’s long-time assistant) and Pat McBride Lousada (former dancer). These first-hand stories combined with evocative music and archival footage reveal how one woman influenced an entire art form and sparked the creative imagination and adoration of two of its most prolific, renowned creators.
“Tanny was the nexus of inspiration, beauty and invention, suddenly turned into a statistic. I wanted to treat her dramatic experience as poetry and create an intimate film that captured this mood,” said writer, director and producer Nancy Buirski. “I’m thrilled Tanny will join Balanchine and Robbins — the men she inspired — as ‘American Masters.’”
“I’m eager for our viewers to discover Tanny and her inspiring life story,” said Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters. “Films like Nancy’s are what make the series unique. Masters are not just the names you know, but the creators, performers and industry titans who leave an indelible impact on our culture.”