Tanaquil LeClercq (1929 - 2000)

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Death: Died
Managed by: Doug Robinson
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About Tanaquil LeClercq


Tanaquil Le Clercq (2 October 1929, Paris, France — 31 December 2000, New York City) was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, but her dancing career was ended when she was stricken with polio and paralyzed from the waist down.

Tanaquil Le Clercq was the daughter of Jacques Le Clercq, a French intellectual, and his American wife, Edith (née Whittemore). Tanaquil studied ballet with Mikhail Mordkin, before auditioning for the School of American Ballet in 1941. She was then offered a scholarship to the school.

When she was 15 years old, George Balanchine asked her to dance with him in a choreography he made to be performed at a benefit for a Polio charity. In this ballet, Balanchine was a character named Polio and Tanaquil was his victim who became paralyzed and fell to the floor. Children tossed dimes at Le Clercq, whereupon she got up and danced again. During her tenure with the company, Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Merce Cunningham all created roles for her. She began teaching and as one student recalled: "She used her hands and arms as legs and feet." Le Clercq contracted polio in Copenhagen in 1956.

Personal life

She was the fourth and last wife (1952—1969) of George Balanchine, but was not his last muse. Balanchine obtained a quick divorce from her to woo Suzanne Farrell, who declined his proposal.