“The tragedy of
Tanny is epic,” Jacques d’Amboise says of his one-time ballet partner, referring
to the event that makes Nancy Buirski’s eloquent documentary Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq,
a moving human drama rather than simply a film about a great dancer. Tanaquil
Le Clercq was the current wife and muse of George Balanchine in 1956 when, while
on a European tour, she was stricken with polio. In the worst kind of tragic
irony, she never walked again.
Afternoon of a Faun,
which premieres tonight at the New York Film Festival, includes great archival
footage of Tanny at the height of her career, and follows her story before and
after her illness — Jerome Robbins and Balanchine both adored her — as she
learned to embrace a much different life than she’d imagined. (The film will also be shown Friday at 1:00
and Sunday at 6:00; stand-by tickets only available for all screenings.)
As you can see in the trailer, d’Amboise’s memories are an
especially poignant element in a richly-layered film that measures up to its
subject’s own grace and complexity.