Tanaquil Le Clercq was a principal dancer with New York City Ballet. Tanny, as she was called by friends and family, was married to George Balanchine and was once considered his muse. Over her career Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Merce Cunningham and others created a total of 32 roles just for her. Her incredible dancing career ended abruptly when she was stricken with polio in Copenhagen during the New York City Ballet company’s European tour in 1956.
A Kansas City Ballet Connection
Tanny was friends with Kansas City Ballet’s former Artistic Director Emeritus, Todd Bolender, when he was with New York City Ballet both as a dancer and as a tour manager. The two remained friends until her death in 2000. In fact just days/weeks after she was stricken with Polio, she had sent a letter to him. She had to dictate the letter to her mother, who wrote it for her, since she wasn’t able to write for herself. She later regained use of her arms and hands. This letter lives in the Kansas City Ballet archives as part of Todd Bolender’s effects. In it she shares personal details about her illness and her outlook on life.
Having never recovered the use of her legs, Tanny found other ways to share her love of ballet including teaching ballet to students using her hands and arms to demonstrate the steps. She also staged ballets for companies as well, even coming to Kansas City Ballet to teach on occasion. She also wrote books, took up photography and more.
Kansas City Ballet’s Archives host items and information that relate to Kansas City Ballet, its artistic staff, dancers, and ballet repertory. Look for other highlights from the archives on this blog.
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