LeClercq, Tanaquil

LeClercq, Tanaquil
▪ 2001

      French-born American ballet dancer (b. Oct. 2, 1929, Paris, France—d. Dec. 31, 2000, New York, N.Y.), was one of the original members of Ballet Society, the forerunner of the New York City Ballet (NYCB), and had a musicality, wit, and sleek, long-limbed look that enhanced her extraordinary abilities and made her an ideal muse for choreographer George Balanchine, to whom she was married from 1952 to 1969. At the peak of her career, however, she contracted polio and was left paralyzed below the waist. Ironically, in 1946, in a ballet that had only one performance, Resurgence—choreographed by Balanchine for a March of Dimes benefit—LeClercq had portrayed a dancer menaced by the evil Polio, danced by Balanchine. At the age of seven, LeClercq began studying ballet with former Bolshoi Ballet star Mikhail Mordkin, and in 1941 she won a scholarship to Balanchine's School of American Ballet, where in 1945 he cast her in student performances of Symphonie Concertante and Elegie. She joined Ballet Society when it was founded in 1946 and remained a principal dancer when in 1948 it became NYCB. Creating roles in such ballets as The Four Temperaments (1946), Bourrée fantasque (1949), and La Valse (1951), LeClercq secured her reputation as an ideal interpreter of Balanchine's works. She also shone in the ballets of a variety of other choreographers, among them Merce Cunningham (The Seasons [1947]), Frederick Ashton (Illuminations [1950]), and, especially, Jerome Robbins (Age of Anxiety [1950], Ballade [1952], Afternoon of a Faun [1953], and The Concert [1956]). Robbins cut a solo from The Concert when, after being stricken with polio in Europe in 1956 while on tour with NYCB, LeClercq could no longer dance it. LeClercq remained active in the world of dance, however, teaching (1974–82) at the Dance Theatre of Harlem's school and frequently attending NYCB performances. She also wrote the books Mourka: The Autobiography of a Cat (1964) and The Ballet Cook Book (1967). In 1998, on the opening night of NYCB's 50th anniversary season, LeClercq was honoured with a tribute to her as a founding member and as a legend.

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▪ American dancer
born October 2, 1929, Paris, France
died December 31, 2000, New York City, New York, U.S.

      versatile American ballet dancer, remembered largely for her work in association with George Balanchine (Balanchine, George), to whom she was married from 1952 to 1969.

      LeClercq grew up in New York City and began taking ballet lessons at age four. In 1941 she entered the School of American Ballet, where she studied under Balanchine. Her first professional performance was at Ted Shawn (Shawn, Ted)'s Jacob's Pillow Festival in Lee, Massachusetts, in August 1945, and in 1946 she became an original member of the Ballet Society formed by Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein (Kirstein, Lincoln). She danced in several premieres, including Balanchine's Four Temperaments (1946), Divertimento (1947), and Orpheus (1948). She remained a principal dancer when the company became the New York City Ballet (NYCB) in 1948.

      Over the next several years LeClercq emerged as one of the company's most individual stylists and a particularly fine exponent of Balanchine's choreography. Among the Balanchine works in which she appeared were Bourrée fantasque (premiered 1949), with Maria Tallchief (Tallchief, Maria); La Valse (premiered 1951); and Western Symphony (premiered 1954). She also created roles in premieres of Frederick Ashton (Ashton, Sir Frederick)'s Illuminations (1950), with Melissa Hayden (Hayden, Melissa); Jerome Robbins (Robbins, Jerome)'s Age of Anxiety (1950); and several others. During a European tour with NYCB in 1956, she was stricken with polio, which abruptly ended her dancing career. She later wrote Mourka: The Autobiography of a Cat (1964) and The Ballet Cook Book (1967) and taught at the Dance Theater of Harlem.

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Universalium. 2010.

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