Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq

(USA, 2013, 87 mins, DCP)


The beautiful, sylph-like Tanaquil Le Clercq was one of the most exquisite ballet dancers ever to grace the stage, but her personal life was complex and troubled, and her career was cut short in its prime when she was tragically struck down by polio.

Director Nancy Buirski (The Loving Story) brings to life the story of a fascinating, prodigiously gifted artist, focusing both on the unsurpassed talents and achievements of her early dancing career, and the heartbreaking struggles she faced when the disease took hold. Breathtaking soft-focus kinescope footage of Le Clercq’s performances emphasize her gorgeous, gamine movements, as well as her playfulness and innovative style. With a voiceover that draws from her personal letters, Buirski creates an intimate, sensuous portrait of the extraordinarily long-legged, alluring ballerina.

While Le Clercq had no shortage of adoring suitors, like many devoted artists, she found human connection difficult and often felt alone and isolated. Buirski uses her incredible footage artfully and respectfully, finding the parallels between Le Clercq’s loneliness and devastation and the lasting emotional power and beauty of her performances.

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

"The ballet movie we’re swooning over." - Marie Claire

"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