Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq

Directed by Nancy Buirski

Release Year: 2013
Running Time: 91
Color Type: Color and B&W
Country: U.S.
Language: English [audio]
Closed Captioned: Yes
Subjects: Dance, Disability
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Screening Info
Tanaquil Le Clercq
George Balanchine

Directed by Nancy Buirski

Buirski (The Loving Story) brings to the screen the magnificent and tragic story of Tanaquil Le Clercq. Of the great ballerinas, Le Clercq may have been the most transcendent, mesmerizing viewers and choreographers alike. Because of her extraordinary movement and unique personality on stage, she became a muse to two of the greatest choreographers in dance, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. She had love, fame, adoration, and was the foremost dancer of her day until it suddenly all stopped. At the age of 27, she was struck down by polio and paralyzed. She never danced again. The ballet world has been haunted by her story ever since.

With a soul-stirring soundtrack and exquisite visuals, this is a story of how one woman passionately influenced an entire art form. Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq is a frighteningly real, gracefully candid portrait of an artist. Rarely has a film revealed such a dramatic experience on such an intimate scale.

Educational Reviews

"The account of Le Clercq's falling ill during a European tour is also marked by sad irony, since--as fellow dancers and friends recount--she had decided against receiving the new vaccine for the disease just before departing. Buirski depicts Le Clercq's later years without sentimentality, using home movies and interviews to recall a woman who accepted her condition with dignity and grace, even using hand and arm movements to instruct students at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. A poignant portrait of a remarkable dancer and--as her last four decades prove--an equally extraordinary human being, this is highly recommended." Video Librarian

"I am tremendously impressed with Afternoon of a Faun:Tanaquil Le Clercq! I write from the perspective of scholarship and teaching in the area of disability, difference and experiences of self and identity loss/restoration. I have taught medical students and graduate students in Anthropology for three decades, and am searching constantly for representations of this power to illuminate for doctors and researchers in training the embodied, nuanced experiences of disablement and difference. Our curriculum in social and behavioral sciences and humanities in medicine has pioneered the inclusion of literature and the arts in medical education. Your documentary will not only go right into my classroom, but has the potential as a teaching tool to touch future physicians in such a way that their patients become the beneficiaries of the insights and perhaps wisdom students will gain." Susan E. Estroff, Ph.D., Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"To reimmerse herself in the world of the art she loved, she willingly allowed herself to be viewed publicly as a cripple. She had to know that people would pity her, and rise above it. She also had to overcome her sense of unfairness and her pain at seeing her able-bodied colleagues perform the roles that had been created for her. In order to work through such a loss, and retain something precious from it, it is necessary to face it head on." Jeanne Safer, Ph.D., PSYCHOLOGY TODAY

Critical Acclaim

A woman of indomitable will who was determined to enjoy her existence despite the disease, Le Clercq made an independent life for herself that included traveling to Europe with friends and teaching at the Dance Theatre of Harlem, founded by former dance partner Arthur Mitchell. After she and Balanchine divorced in 1969, she lived alone for the rest of her life, which this fine documentary makes you feel is very much the way she wanted it." Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"It is almost as though you are beholding mythological deities who have alighted briefly on the of the great ballerinas of the 20th century." - Stephen Holden, New York Times

"Classical dance great Jacques d'Amboise calls Tanaquil LeClercq's style a 'path to heaven.' And this lovely documentary by Nancy Buirski makes it clear that he's right." - Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News

"CRITICS' PICK." - Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice

"3.5 stars. Mesmerizing, beautifully crafted." - Godfrey Cheshire,

"With its extraordinary footage and a story replete with tragic ironies, Nancy Buirski's documentary on famed prima ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq often soars" - Variety

"A richly-layered film that measures up to its subject's own grace and complexity" - Indiewire

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