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Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq


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#31 meunier fan

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 12:30 PM

In this day and age, why be so delicate about something that's been discussed many times in books and documentaries about Robbins? 

 

Most odd ....  Might they be wishing to make sales to States/Countries where legislation may not be so relaxed?  Even then I would think it hard to imagine.  What can the film makers have been thinking of?  One can almost hear Robbins rightfully laugh or certainly watch his eyes flash to the ceiling in abject amazement.  And just think: It's 2014!.   



#32 PeggyR

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 12:44 PM

Just saw this.  Aside from her dancing (and the chance to see a few snippets of Allegra Kent), my favorite parts were the home movies from her later years, when she had come to terms with what had happened.  It was good to see her laughing and maturely beautiful in her long, gray hair.  The photos of her that I assume were taken during the early years of her illness were heartbreaking:  the disheveled hair and those haunted eyes…



#33 soubrette_fan

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 04:09 PM

What a beautiful film.  I'm glad that Arthur Mitchell saw past the veil of her illness, and urged her to return to the dance world as a teacher. 

 

Note- if you have a Roku streaming device, just add the PBS channel, and you can watch this film as many times as you want, 24 hrs a day.  It's available under the "American Masters" category.

 

http://www.roku.com/...tails/23353/pbs

 

The images of her in her later years, laughing and sipping wine, are unforgettable.



#34 dirac

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 10:21 AM

I also saw this on PBS the other night. Pretty good. I enjoyed the dance segments, but not, as Jack Reed has already noted, the voiceovers that often continued all the way through them, so much so that  regardless of their value as observations I began to wish I could just hiss “Shut up!” It is interesting that the footage shows a dancer with softer outlines (save for those awesome cheekbones) and a fuller form than one would think – yesterday’s “angular” isn’t today’s “angular.”

 

Like canbelto, I was struck by the fact that Robbins’ homosexuality is nowhere mentioned, since that would obviously put the romantic “triangle” and the correspondence between Le Clercq and Robbins in a different light. Possibly Buirski just assumed anyone watching already knows it – her approach did sometimes seem geared to viewers already familiar with the outlines of Le Clercq’s story – but that seems doubtful. In any case, it’s rather a big omission. I also wish that Le Clercq was not defined quite so emphatically by her relationship with the two men; it’s true that such is the fate of all muses to an extent, but Buirski seems to accept fairly unquestioningly that the way to view Le Clercq’s life and work is through the lens of “the male gaze.” (It did make this viewer wonder on the additional trauma to Le Clercq when that gaze turned away as a result of her illness; Balanchine’s eventual defection, the on-again, off-again attentions of Robbins.)

 

It is unfortunate that there is so little footage of Le Clercq speaking directly. We do hear a recording of what sounded like excerpts from Barbara Morgan’s  Newman's interview for “Striking a Balance,” but it’s too bad there wasn’t more footage of Le Clercq being interviewed while she was still dancing – perhaps there’s nothing out there, but still, a shame.

 

There was too much foreshadowing for me – it’s as if Le Clercq’s career was danced in the shadow of what was to come. I think it was fair to devote a significant portion of the program to Le Clercq’s life post-polio; while Le Clercq interests us because she was a dancer, in biographical terms the woman who survived the dancer for forty-plus years is also of considerable interest, to this viewer anyway. These days not everyone is familiar with polio’s reign of terror, of which the footage of patients in iron lungs and at Warm Springs are painful reminders.

 

A little more on the working relationship between Balanchine and Le Clercq would have nicely filled out the portrait.

 

I agree, but I can also understand that Buirski’s task was made trickier by the fact that neither of the principals seem to have talked much about it. Again, one respects Le Clercq’s wish for privacy, but the rare interviews she did grant remind us of what unshared knowledge and perceptions she took with her to the grave. But surely we could have learned more about the major roles Le Clercq originated for Balanchine – we see her as Dewdrop, for example, but we don’t hear anything about how that role illuminated her particular qualities. We see her dancing the 2nd movement of “Symphony in C,” but no mention of the importance of that role in the Balanchine canon.

 

I'm glad that Arthur Mitchell saw past the veil of her illness, and urged her to return to the dance world as a teacher.

 

 

Indeed. The movie showed us a bit of Balanchine’s harder side, when we’re told that he didn’t want Le Clercq at SAB, which would have been the obvious place for her – I guess having a crippled wife hanging around would have cramped his style, or perhaps he thought the wheelchair would spook the students......


Edited by dirac, 24 June 2014 - 09:35 AM.
Added text in bold; corrected author name


#35 sandik

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 10:55 AM

It is interesting that the footage shows a dancer with softer outlines (save for those awesome cheekbones) and a fuller form than one would think yesterdays angular isnt todays angular.


Very much so, which makes me think again about all the descriptions of Balanchine performers during that period (like "pinheads," and Stravinsky's characterization of Adams as the Solingen steel logo). But description is always grounded in its period -- context is a powerful element with that kind of historical material.
 

Like canbelto, I was struck by the fact that Robbins homosexuality is nowhere mentioned, since that would obviously put the romantic triangle and the correspondence between Le Clercq and Robbins in a different light. Possibly Buirski just assumed anyone watching already knows it her approach did sometimes seem geared to viewers already familiar with the outlines of Le Clercqs story but that seems doubtful. In any case, its rather a big omission.


It's almost as if the film wants to maintain the same kind of 'discretion' that people did at that time, when homosexuality was still a crime in many parts of the US.
 

I also wish that Le Clercq was not defined quite so emphatically by her relationship with the two men; its true that such is the fate of all muses to an extent, but Buirski seems to accept fairly unquestioningly that the way to view Le Clercqs life and work is through the lens of the male gaze. (It did make this viewer wonder on the additional trauma to Le Clercq when that gaze turned away as a result of her illness; Balanchines eventual defection, the on-again, off-again attentions of Robbins.)


In recent art and scholarship, the role of the muse has been examined much more thoroughly than it was at the time -- again, the film seems to be emulating the mores of its period.
 

There was much foreshadowing for me its as if Le Clercqs career was danced in the shadow of what was to come. I think it was fair to devote a significant portion of the program to Le Clercqs life post-polio; while Le Clercq interests us because she was a dancer, in biographical terms the woman who survived the dancer for forty-plus years is also of considerable interest, to this viewer anyway. These days not everyone is familiar with polios reign of terror, of which the footage of patients in iron lungs and at Warm Springs are painful reminders.


I thought the emphasis was pretty heavy-handed, but was so glad to see the footage from hospital wards and Warm Springs included -- it has been such a long time since polio was a threat in the US that we're pretty ignorant. And with the recent recurrence of the disease around the world, we need to get smarter fast.

#36 canbelto

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 11:09 AM

Well here's the thing. Robbins' homosexuality wasn't a state secret in the 1950's. In fact, Ed Sullivan used it to blackmail him into giving testimony for the HUAC. So it's not as if Tanny wouldn't have known about it, and the fact that she knew and was willing to have a close friendship with him says a lot about her personally, way more than simply presenting a love triangle. And actually, it says a lot about Balanchine too. 



#37 cargill

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 11:27 AM

About the Balanchine and polio question, Danceview published an article on that topic. 

 
Stretching the Classical Vocabulary by Hayden, Emily DanceView,Volume 27, Issue 3,Pages25-28, Summer,2010.
 
In my day job as a librarian, I worked with the student writing it, and we found old polio manuals and articles written in the 1950's about the exercises.  Mary


#38 atm711

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 11:54 AM

I also winced at LeClercq being defined by her relationship with R and B. if such was the case with her, I suppose it is easy to be overwhelmed by the attention of

two such men.  I have long  felt that aside from  her obvious talent, Robbins interest in her had the overtones of snob appeal--given their very different backgrounds

(born in France with intellectual parents.....)  I saw much of her in  my student days---regardless of the school we went to we students bumped into each other often

especially in cafeterias.



#39 MakarovaFan

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 01:16 PM

I enjoyed the documentary and the highlight commentary-wise was Jacques d'Amboise's; Jacques is a joy to listen to and his obvious affection for Tanny was very moving. I was disappointed that no ballerinas were interviewed.  No Allegra Kent, Patricia Neary, Patricia Wilde, Violette Verdy, am I missing anyone? 



#40 sandik

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 02:30 PM

 

About the Balanchine and polio question, Danceview published an article on that topic. 

 
Stretching the Classical Vocabulary by Hayden, Emily DanceView,Volume 27, Issue 3,Pages25-28, Summer,2010.
 
In my day job as a librarian, I worked with the student writing it, and we found old polio manuals and articles written in the 1950's about the exercises.  Mary

 

Thanks for the reminder!  Everyone talks about how Balanchine's approach to Agon was affected by LeClercq's physical therapy, but few go into details.



#41 soubrette_fan

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 01:53 PM

I'm curious about the Western Symphony footage shown in the film.  When was it shot?  Or, in other words, how close to when Le Clercq came down with polio?  Searching Balanchine.org, the film appears to be dated 1955, but there are no specific dates.

 

Thanks to all in advance!  My eyes are getting cross-eyed from trying to find this answer.



#42 rg

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 02:18 PM

as you may or may not have already found, the release date for the film simply says: 1957.

the NYPL dance coll. cat. entry doesn't say when it was actually filmed, which was in Paris.

a safe assumption might be Oct. 17 - 21 when NYCB played Paris before traveling to Cologne (Oct 26 -24) and then Copenhagen (Oct. 26-31): Stockholm was Nov. 3 -11. perhaps d'Amboise recent memoir can confirm this.

 

Western symphony/ Monitor Productions ; directed by Thomas Rowe ; choreography by George Balanchine ; music by Hershy Kay.
Imprint : 1957.
Description : (27 min.) 
Notes : Filmed in Paris by Monitor Productions.
: Diana Adams and Herbert Bliss (Allegro); Melissa Hayden and Nicholas Magallanes (Adagio); Allegra Kent and Robert Barnett (Scherzo); Tanaquil LeClercq and Jacques d'Amboise (Rondo); artists of the New York City Ballet.


#43 California

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 03:23 PM

I'm curious about the Western Symphony footage shown in the film.  When was it shot?  Or, in other words, how close to when Le Clercq came down with polio?  Searching Balanchine.org, the film appears to be dated 1955, but there are no specific dates.

 

The documentary doesn't specifically give the date when these clips were shot. The voice-overs do make clear a few things: d'Amboise danced the final movement of Western Symphony with her in Cologne in October 1956 and then he flew home to New York, as he was expecting the birth of his son. The next clip is of Mitchell, a very brief clip of the last movement of Western Symphony again, shot in B&W, with Mitchell saying Le Clercq and he did the last movement of Western Symphony in Copenhagen, where she collapsed from polio. 

 

This is consistent with d'Amboise's autobiography, I was a Dancer (p. 178), although he doesn't mention Mitchell taking his role in Copenhagen. 

 

But the film doesn't say when either of those clips were filmed. The NYPL listing says Paris, so that would have been earlier in the tour. The B&W clip might have been shot in Copenhagen, especially if nobody is finding anything in the NYPL catalog.  Did she dance it with Mitchell on earlier occasions when it might have been filmed, perhaps in NYC? If not, was that the very last time Le Clercq danced? Seems possible.



#44 soubrette_fan

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 05:09 AM

rg & California- Thanks for the very detailed and informative answers! smile.png



#45 mom2

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 06:22 AM

It is now on Netflix; watched it yesterday.  smile.png




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