Tanaquil LeClercq

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LeClercq as Dewdrop of the Candy Flowers in The Nutcracker.

Tanaquil LeClercq (October 2, 1929, Paris, France — December 31, 2000, New York, New York) was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. Her dancing career ended abruptly when she was stricken with polio in Copenhagen during the company's European tour in 1956.[1] Eventually regaining most of the use of her arms and torso, she remained paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her life.

She 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, at which time she won a scholarship there.[2]

When she was 15 years old, George Balanchine asked her to perform with him in a dance he choreographed for a polio charity benefit. In an eerie portent of things to come, he played a character named Polio, and LeClercq was his victim who became paralyzed and fell to the floor. Then, children tossed dimes at her character, prompting her to get up and dance again.

During LeClercq's tenure with the company, Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Merce Cunningham all created roles for her.

Years later, after being stricken with polio in real life, she reemerged as a dance teacher and, as one student recalled, "used her hands and arms as legs and feet."

Personal life[edit]

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


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