"Tanaquil Le Clercq: Afternoon of a Faun" Television Premiere

Before Paloma Herrera, before Sara Mearns, before Natalia Osipova, even before Suzanne Farrell, there was Tanny. Tanaquil Le Clercq, known as “Tanny” to her friends, was a principal with New York City Ballet until she was stricken by polio during a tour to Denmark. At the time, she was one of NYCB’s stars; she was also George Balanchine’s wife (his fourth). And, most heartbreakingly, she was only 27 years old. Le Clercq would never walk or dance again.

Le Clercq’s extraordinary life is chronicled in the documentary Tanaquil Le Clercq: Afternoon of a Faun, which premiered on PBS a week ago. Check your local listings page to confirm the airdate on your local station. The film is now available on DVD and can be live-streamed via the PBS website. You can also view the trailer, excerpts and outtakes on the live-stream site.

Betty Jones in The Moor's Pavane, shot for Dance Magazine's "Dancers You Should Know" series in 1955. Zachary Freyman, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow

An anchor of the Humphrey-Limón legacy for more than 70 years, Betty Jones died at her home in Honolulu on November 17, 2020. She remained active well into her 90s, most recently leading a New York workshop with her husband and partner, Fritz Ludin, in October 2019.

Betty May Jones was born on June 11, 1926 in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and moved with her family to the Albany, New York, area, where she began taking dance classes. Just after she turned 15 in 1941, she began serious ballet study at Jacob's Pillow, which was under the direction of Anton Dolin and Alicia Markova for the season. Over the next three summers as a scholarship student, Jones expanded her range and became an integral part of Jacob's Pillow. Among her duties was working in the kitchen, where her speedy efficiency earned her the nickname of "Lightning."

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Finis Jhung teaching a virtual class. Photo courtesy Ruden

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I watched the hospital employees walking to Mount Sinai Hospital next door and marked the passing of time by the daily seven o'clock tribute to essential workers that broke the eerie silences.

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