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