The radiant beauty of Tanaquil Le Clercq burns through the grainy images and fuzzy kinetoscopes in Nancy Buirski’s stunning documentary tribute Afternoon of A Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq. One of the most notable prima ballerinas of her generation, Le Clercq was built like a racehorse: long legs; lithe, athletic torso; a beautiful mane of hair. She had power to spare. And unmatched stage presence. Trained by Balanchine from the age of 12 at his School of American Ballet, the precursor to the iconic New York City Ballet, Le Clercq quickly became the great choreographer’s muse. Her unique dramatic style, edgy and full of charm, also deeply influenced young Jerome Robbins, just beginning his prolific choreographic career. Balanchine, Robbins and others created more than 30 roles for her; she premiered such classic ballets as Four Temperaments, Symphony in C, The Concert, Bourrée Fantasque, La Valse and, of course, Afternoon of a Faun. She married Balanchine in 1952, becoming his fourth wife.
She was just 27 and at the pinnacle of her career when, prior to a company tour to Denmark in 1956, she decided not to stand in line to get the new polio vaccine. She was stricken in Europe before the tour had even begun. While she regained the use of her arms and torso, she was confined to a wheelchair until her death 44 years later. Her dancing career spanned only ten years, but her influence on the dance world was enormous.
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1 p.m. May 25, 26 and 27, 7 p.m. May 30 and 31, and 5 p.m. June 1. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713‑639‑7515 or visit mfah.org/films. $9.
May 25-27, 1 p.m.; Fri., May 30, 7 p.m.; Sat., May 31, 7 p.m.; Sun., June 1, 5 p.m., 2014