Tanaquil Le Clercq's "The Ballet Cook Book" Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq may have been known for her long-limbed dancing and versatile grace, but it turns out that her renown didn’t end there. In 1967 the former New York City Ballet star published The Ballet Cook Book, a mix of ballet history, food stories and the pièce de résistance: recipes collected from over 90 famous NYCB dancers and choreographers including George Balanchine (her then husband), Jacques d’Amboise, Melissa Hayden and Allegra Kent.
Why bring this up now? This year marks the 50th anniversary of her book’s publication, and in celebration, food scholar Meryl Rosofsky is curating a program exploring the context of the book. Held on November 5 and 6 at the Guggenheim Museum, the program will include live performance excerpts with roles originated by Ballet Cook Book contributors including Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Bugaku, Stars and Stripes and Western Symphony as well as a panel conversation with d’Amboise and Kent (both of whom were at the original book signing) and current NYCB principals Jared Angle and Adrian Danchig-Waring, both talented cooks.That certainly seems like plenty of excitement to us, but attendees can also stop into the Guggneheim’s Wright Restaurant to taste select dishes from The Ballet Cook Book including Le Clercq’s Chicken Vermouth, Balanchine’s Slow Beet Borschok, Hayden’s Potato Latkes and Kent’s Walnut Apple Cake.
But back to Le Clercq. The French-born dancer contracted polio while on tour with the company in Copenhagen in 1956 which tragically halted her career, but thanks to her marriage to Balanchine she remained an integral part of the NYCB family. And Le Clercq clearly loved to cook: In his memoir I Was a Dancer, d’Amboise fondly recounts long dinner parties with Balanchine, Le Clercq and his wife, NYCB dancer Carolyn George, which unfailingly consisted of steak, potatoes, ice cream and wine. We love the familiarity that these famed dancers had with each other as well as the way that their choice in menu disproves the stereotype that dancers don’t eat. Can’t wait till November? You can start building your cooking repertoire with these American Ballet Theatre recipes from 1979.
And, of course, enjoy the beautiful Le Clercq in all her glory.