Tanaquil Le ClercqQuery
Posted 22 March 2013 - 01:56 PM
Posted 18 April 2013 - 08:32 PM
Posted 18 April 2013 - 09:03 PM
an interesting snippet about her relationship with Jerome Robbins, also in Sym C you can see Maria Tallchief. They danced so fast!
Thanks very much for finding this clip. I always thought it interesting that the Robbins documentary has much more personal information, and talk about Tanny, than the Balanchine documentary for American Masters - that one's devoid of any personal relationship talk. Robbins felt Le Clercq was his muse (as she was for Balanchine obviously). It's too bad the last little bit about Tanny is missing from this clip.
Posted 23 May 2013 - 04:41 PM
From Jacques d’Amboise, I Was A Dancer -
"At Madame Seda’s school, my sister was the best dancer, by far. At SAB, the classes were filled with her equals, and a star among them was a long-limbed teenager named Tanaquil LeClercq. Everyone knew Tanny was special. Before Tanny, George Balanchine had drawn inspiration from a chain of dancers: Tamara Geva, Alexandra Danilova, Tamara Toumanova, Irina Baronova, Vera Zorina, Marie-Jeanne, and Maria Tallchief. All of them were short, fast, virtuoso dancers. Tanny was different. She was elongated and stretched out, and fascinating to watch, an elegant praying mantis, but in no way predatory. Balanchine’s aesthetic changed with Tanny. She was to become the new prototype for his ideal dancer-long neck, small head, and mile-long limbs.
'She's too skinny!' the Boss [nickname for Jacques' mother Georgiana] would announce to Tanny's mother, Edith LeClercq. 'She should eat more!' Boss always had something to say to the cabal of ballet mothers. Presided over by Edith, they would sit and gossip in the hall outside the studios during their children's ballet classes, the Boss moving among them like a ferret.
It was from Edith that the Boss found out about the King-Coit School, an after-school program run by two little old ladies in a town house they owned together. They were prim Victorians, and created a place where kindergarten play and games were taken to a sophisticated performing-arts level. Tanny was enrolled, and I don't know how the Boss swung it, but she had Madeleine and me enrolled as well, on scholarships. The town house teemed with activity-plays, recitals, poetry readings, dramatic recitations, costume making, anything in the performing arts that tickled Miss King and Miss Coit’s fancy. Over the course of some six months, we performed in little vignettes, variety shows, all forgotten by me-with one exception. In that recital, I played a sailor dancing a hornpipe with two belles. The teenage Tanny was on the same program, but the star was a plump little girl, a pasty-faced dumpling with red pouty lips, who recited a poem. Her voice, strident and ear-scraping, would cut through an Alaskan oil slick taster than carbolic acid. That voice is so ingrained in the memories of King-Coit alumni that, fifty years later, I could pick up the phone, call Tanny, and, mimicking THE VOICE, screech, ‘Eat little hird and think no more of sorrow! ‘ and Tanny would immediately parrot the next line, ‘I'll feed you every day at this time!’ Then, amid laughter, she would quip, ‘Are you soliciting me for an invitation to dinner?’”
Posted 23 May 2013 - 04:45 PM
The Balanchines included us in their family life. Routinely, Tanny would say, “Come over for dinner. We’ll play cards after." As it was the fifties, steak every night was the norm. Porterhouse, rare, served with Dijon mustard, a salad of romaine lettuce with a dressing of olive-oil, lemon, and garlic, and new potatoes roasted in their skin with butter, parsley, and rosemary. This was the usual menu Tanny chose and chef Balanchine served. Her wit, barbed and directed at everything and anyone (including herself), was unpredictable, yet veined with affection. Having decided on the dinner menu, she would announce, “Oh! This again?" Delivered with mock surprise and a hint of indignation. Dessert was never anything but ice cream. “I thought we'd have something new,” Tanny would declare. Mouton Rothschild was the wine--two bottles in the course of an evening. I was responsible for the downing of one. 'Have another glass,' Tanny would quip. 'Here, let me pour it for you.' Then, turning to Balanchine, she’d add, 'If he does, George, we're sure to win, even with you as my card partner.' After dinner, Balanchine would sit, patiently playing endless rounds of canasta. Sometimes, either from boredom or just to pique an outburst from Tanny, he would throw down a wrong card, dissolving her strategy.
During the next day's rehearsal, Tanny would pick up from the night before. She’d draw away from me, dramatically, as I partnered her. ’Do I detect a little purple staining the whites of your ballet shoes? Jacques, I can’t believe it! You’re sweating wine!’”*
* We loved to eat, Tanny and I; dancing kept us slim, so the sky's the limit on the cuisine. Tanny even did a cookbook where different ballet friends gave their favorite recipes. I gave her a stack and most of them ended up in her book. The number of mine she included is second only to Balanchine's.
--Jacques d’Amboise, I Was A Dancer
Posted 23 May 2013 - 05:02 PM
"...Moncion I saw act too little to speak of any change. Hayden and Laing, formerly very fine in a tense and even overwrought style of acting, now seemed feeling their way toward a calmer and larger kind, such as Kaye and Robbins use. Together with the acting that Tallchief and Le Clercq show, it looks as if the NYC would welcome a simple and steady kind of acting whenever it begins to show.
Tallchief though weak in adagio, strikes me as the most audacious and the most correctly brilliant of allegro classicists. She can lift a ballet by an entrance, and she has flashes of a grand decision that are on ballerina scale. What I missed seeing was that expressive radiance which makes beautiful not only the ballerina herself; but the whole company with her, and the whole drab area of stage space and bright imaginary world of the ballet that visibly and invisibly surrounds her--a gently indomitable radiance that is a classical ballerina's job, and that several times in my life I have seen a dancer accomplish. Le Clercq has a heavenly radiance and a lovely adagio, but neither has been trained to spread indomitably. Her New York elegance of person, her intelligence in every movement, the delicacy of her rhythmic attack we all adore. Adams has a perfect action the best adagio, a ravishing figure, and a sweet manner that is our equivalent of your 'county.' Wilde has a beautiful Veronese grandeur and plasticity of shape in her dancing, a glorious jump; and Hayden has a Lautrec edge and vehement stab and a strange softness in her she seems to hate: a great actress, I would guess, if she learns calm. They are all in Caracole, each with a line as pure as a great ballerina’s, and as characteristic as a great horse’s in a horse show. And intent little Reed with the heart of gold--but individuals isn’t what this letter is about, as I said to begin with. I love them all."
Edwin Denby from a review of Roma -
"The strictness of classicism in Roma and the strictness of the musical setting of the steps show the nuance of dance impulse more clearly. Dancers classically trained find in classicism a theatrical spontaneity and transparency. The expression of their dance can look sincere. And their personal quality in classicism--unconsciously transparent--can become a view of what the stage character represented is like 'really.' So for intance Le Clercq’s delicacy of timing can give her characters a grace in courtesy, a quick awareness, that makes them exceptionally interesting.
Fonteyn--a quite different dancer--has a similar courtesy."
Posted 23 May 2013 - 06:03 PM
"I have not reworked these articles. I am astonished that I ever thought Serenade would be better danced in a demi-caractere way. Astonished, too, that the thrill I remember so distinctly of Le Clercq’s climax in La Valse--throwing her head back as she plunges her hand into the black glove--is not mentioned here. Her solitary pacing that made the last minute of Opus 34 so marvelous is mentioned but without naming her."
"During the exquisite understatements of Balanchine’s ballet to Haieff’s Divertimento, I was thinking what a wonderful artist Tanaquil Le Clercq is turning out to be. The old accusation that American dancers are cold and inexpressive no longer holds good. Le Clercq, Hayden and Wilde all have personalities which ‘project’; and technically they are prodigious."
Edwin Denby, At the Champs-Elysees, Paris, 21-7-52
"Western Symphony is an extraordinary work. We expect ballets about the Wild West to have a lot of thigh-slapping and characteristic movements, and, of course, a story. This one, apart from some superficial local colour, is a typical Balanchine ballet, built up symphonically. The score, by Hershy Kay, is a web of familiar popular tunes, the set is a gold-rush town of wooden houses, the dancers are dressed as cowboys and spangled barroom vampires: otherwise Western Symphony is as classical as the Bizet Symphony in C. Melissa Hayden has a bounding, exulting solo: she is a more wonderful artist than ever, gloriously strong and expressive, with all the verve we associate with Russian dancers. Wearing an etherealized Mae West hat, Tanaquil Le Clercq makes a big entry in the last movement and does an amazing diagonal of turning jumps in her spiky spidery style. She is most effective, and so is her partner Jacques d’Amboise, who swings and bounds about, looking frightfully pleased with life, exuding athletic glamour. He is now a star personality, and I hope he can’t sing, otherwise the company will lose him to Broadway. Western Symphony has some of Balanchine’s favourite cavalry charges and counter-charges, and ends with everyone spinning joyously."
"Robbins’s new version of Debussy’s L’Apres-midi d'un fauna was the biggest hit of the season. He seemed to have struck on a new and yet right interpretation of the music, which is sultry and sensual, but dreamlike, as if unsatisfied desires fed the summer afternoon with beauty. The scene is a ballet classroom whose white transparent walls let in the blue sky. The audience is a mirror. Jacques d’Amboise lies sleeping on the floor. When he wakes up he does a few exercises and admires himself. Tanaquil Le Clercq comes in, high-stepping and aloof. They practice a pas de deux, and then subside, overcome by the heat. You watch a thought coming into the boy’s head. He kisses the girl chastely on the cheek. She is as surprised as if the barre had broken out in thorns and blossom. Holding her hand to her wound, she steps gingerly out of the room, leaving the boy to go back to sleep. Robbins’s idea is poetic and subtle, its realization impeccable. The two performers were as imposing as Babilée and Philippart in Le Jeune homme et la mort. I do not agree with French critics who thought the music misinterpreted. There are fauns everywhere, even in the British Museum Reading Room."
Posted 27 May 2013 - 09:02 PM
Edited by pherank, 28 May 2013 - 10:41 AM.
Posted 28 May 2013 - 07:08 AM
Posted 29 May 2013 - 12:51 PM
Posted 29 May 2013 - 02:07 PM
That is indeed one of the happiest, most at ease snapshots of Balanchine and friends that I remember seeing. Tanny's expression is a joy to behold. Thanks, phrank. And special thanks.for those long quotes from Edwin DENBY.
Denby is my favorite writer amongst the ballet critics - wonderful, poetic use of language. I'm not a fan of John Martin, and his attitudes. But I will try to find some references to Tanny in his work as well.
Here are some great passages from Jacques d'Amboise's book, I Was A Dancer -
[size=4]I planned to leave the tour at the end of October, to be in New York in time for the birth [of his 1st son]. The tour was brutal and exhausting. Tanny, Diana Adams, and Melissa Hayden were my partners in practically every ballet in the repertoire. At the end of October, on closing night in Cologne, Germany, Tanny and I danced two ballets together (Concerto Barocco and Western Symphony). Thin, tired, and both suffering from bronchitis, we coughed in the dressing rooms, the wings, and onstage in each other’s faces, trying our best to muffle the hacking sounds-until the bows. While our heads were lowered, we could take the opportunity to let loose bellowing coughs. The American consulate gave an after-performance party, but my flight to New York City was early in the morning, so I gave Tanny a hug onstage, and said goodbye.
I was never to embrace her again while she was standing.
In the morning, the company flew to their next engagement, Copenhagen, and within a few days Tanny collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, where she went into a coma and woke up in an iron lung. Polio. After Copenhagen, the company went on to Stockholm to finish the tour. Balanchine, his aplomb shredded, abandoned all responsibilities, and spent every moment tending Tanny. They would remain in Denmark for months.
When I saw Balanchine later in New York, he confessed to me, “She was in this place, iron lung, to make her breathe. She told me, ‘Stop smoking, it’s hurting me’ ” Balanchine made a gesture with his hand like the blade of a guillotine, demonstrating an irrevocable change, “I stopped!" He never smoked again, and displayed disfavor to anyone who did. Then Balanchine presented me with a package, saying, “Tanny asked me to get you this gift. Very direct orders. ‘A Danish sweater with silver buttons,' she said.” It hangs today in my closet. (The book shows a photo of Jacques in his sweater [on p195] jumping over his son's head.)
…When Balanchine returned with Tanny to New York, he sought out a friend, Dr. Henry Jordan, a renowned orthopedic and hemophilia specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital. “As soon as possible, take Tanny to the treatment center in Warm Springs, Georgia. Do as much physical therapy as possible,” Jordan advised. “Little by little, she’ll recover, no one knows how much, and then her improvement will stop." He predicted, “She has a window of about two and a half years from the onset.” Balanchine was angry: “No, she’ll get better. I’ll make her better. She’ll dance again!” He denounced Dr. Jordan and anyone who spoke otherwise. After settling Tanny at the spa in Warm Springs, Balanchine shuttled back and forth, alternately working with the doctors on Tanny's recovery and doing his best to run his ballet company. When he later brought her back to New York, he tended her day and night, cooking for her, cleaning, bathing and massaging her, bending and stretching her legs, lifting her and inventing his own forms of physical therapy. “I would bend legs and stretch, then take her out of bed, hold up from behind with her feet on my feet, and practice walking.”
Tanny didn't get better. Almost eight years passed before Balanchine would admit to himself that Dr. Jordan was right.[/size]
[size=4]Tanaquil was intelligent, acerbic, witty, beautiful, graceful, and chic. Balanchine choreographed inspired works for her--but I noticed his fascination with Diana Adams immediately.
...Though he was married to Tanny, Balanchine lavished more and more attention on Diana. When Diana divorced, he would have jumped at the chance to have her, but by then, Tanny and Diana were the best of friends. There were rumors Tanny and Balanchine were going to separate, but before any conflict surfaced, Tanny got polio. Balanchine, traumatized, redevoted himself to her. No matter what any doctor told him, he was determined to get her out of that wheelchair and back dancing again, if only by the sheer force of his will. Until that occurred, he believed he was no longer free to pursue Diana or anyone else.
Tanny was doomed to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair, so she adapted. “When I need something, I call the appropriate person to help to run an errand--Eddie Bigelow, he never turns me down--to make a complaint about a failed delivery. I get black Natasha, Natasha Molostwoff, to call them--she has the meanest phone voice!" When Tanny needed someone to take her to a party, I would sometimes get summoned. “Jacques, come pick me up, George is busy." My function? To help her into her chair, to the elevator, and out of the building. “Now go get a cab," she’d order.
"Tanny, you're so brave,” I used to say. “There's nothing brave about it, Jacques. You make the best of the way things turn out. I’m in a wheelchair now. And there’s some compensation. Before, if I didn’t have to dance the matinee, I’d wake up on a Saturday morning and be noshing a danish and slurping coffee, when the phone would ring. ‘Patty Wilde is sick. You have to go on in Swan Lake’ I’d hang up the phone and go into the bathroom and throw up. Now, I’ll never have to be afraid of going onstage as the Swan Queen again.”
Tanny was tall and skinny. She didn’t want to be the Swan Queen--“I’m not a swan, I'm a crane," she’d protest. But she forced herself to be a Swan for Balanchine. He would push her onstage--literally, he would stand in the wings and shove her, and she’d stumble on for her entrance.[/size]
Posted 29 May 2013 - 02:15 PM
The way Balanchine exercised with Tanny after the polio sounds like Robert Garis's theory that Agon was partially based on Le Clercq and Balanchine trying to solve a choreographic problem.
Posted 29 May 2013 - 02:49 PM
Thank you for posting this. It shows how Balanchine really was there (200%) for Le Clercq. Was she really so brusque as d'amboise depicts in his memoir? Anyway, somehow I could never imagine Balanchine and Diana Adams as married. To read d'amboise's version, Balanchine would have married Adams instead of Le Clercq had Adams been available. I find this difficult to believe unless he found her more malleable. Not that I was there.
The way Balanchine exercised with Tanny after the polio sounds like Robert Garis's theory that Agon was partially based on Le Clercq and Balanchine trying to solve a choreographic problem.
"Was she really so brusque as d'amboise depicts in his memoir?"
I think that's partly the d'Amboise writing style. Also, you don't get a sense for her inflection - just HOW she says things (which was apparently part of her charm/manner).
"I could never imagine Balanchine and Diana Adams as married"
I don't think Diana Adams could either. ;) In fact, I think that would have been living hell for Adams as she seemed to suffer from increasing stage fright as time went on. Adams had tremendous insecurities, which was really a tragedy. She developed many physical reasons for why she couldn't dance. Jacques goes into some detail on the absence of Adams from much of the Russian tour of 1962. I think Balanchine marveled at Adams' abilities, but she was rather difficult to work with (Allegra Kent falls into this same category), and as Balanchine said himself, Farrell became his favorite because, "Suzanne didn't resist". Farrell was the first dancer who went full bore into whatever was being worked on (except for the jumps that her knee couldn't handle). Suzanne was always game.
Another d'Amboise quote:
During the period between 1956 and 1959, Balanchine was bursting with ballets, and all the juicy roles were Diana's. Outwardly, Diana was born perfect in every way, except that her belief in herself was not equal to what her outer gifts appeared to claim. When people have been gifted beyond others, they're expected to perform beyond others. But if the gifted person is filled with self-doubt, that expectation becomes torment.
As the years went on, Diana wanted out. She kept getting injured, missing performances. Like Tanny and so many others, she wanted to please Balanchine, but deep in her heart, she didn't really love to dance.
"The way Balanchine exercised with Tanny after the polio sounds like Robert Garis's theory that Agon was partially based on Le Clercq and Balanchine trying to solve a choreographic problem"
Now that would be a truly original and fascinating idea - that Agon relates to the physical battle against polio, or Balanchine's specific efforts to rehabilitate Le Clercq's muscles.
Posted 30 May 2013 - 10:00 AM
Robert Garis wrote in Following Balanchine: "...This time there was a new inflection [regarding Balanchine's choreography] because in Agon I saw for the first time something autobiographical in his choreography. This came fully clear to me only a year later, when the partnering in another new ballet, Episodes, reminded me forcibly of the partnering in the pas de deux in Agon. I was seeing a new kind of collaboration between men and women: an intensely careful, watchful, tender, and grave working together to achieve tense and perilous extensions and balances. From one point of view the Agon pas de deux was just another Balanchine revision of classical pas de deux, but to me it seemed to stem from and reflect, though not quite to imitate, his work with Le Clercq in physical therapy--not that the dance mimics the movements of physical therapy but that in both cases the man and woman seem required by some urgent necessity to move quietly, cautiously, with all the skill and courage they can muster, and in a mood of held-breath crisis.
My sense of this connection still holds, though I've been leery about expressing so autobiographical reading of a classical pas de deux, since the dance is, of course, a major and central Balanchine ballet invention, with many other aspects to it. I can hardly remember with whom I've shared my reading, and I never received enthusiastic agreement--I do recall being heard out patiently. But it marks an important juncture in my following of Balanchine's career, because it is the first connection I ever made between Balanchine's private life and his art... But from then on my following of Balanchine's career developed this approach extensively, and later it was fully warranted by the autobiographical elements in some of the ballets he made for Farrell--Mediation, Don Quixote, and Robert Schuman's Davidbündlertänze."
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