Cooking with "Tanny" Le Clercq: Works & Process Celebrates The Ballet Cook Book

November 2, 2017

When people think of Tanaquil Le Clercq, one of George Balanchine’s early muses (and wives), they’re probably more likely to ruminate on the polio diagnosis that ended her performing career than her literary and culinary legacy. This is the perception that food scholar Meryl Rosofsky is looking to shift with a Works & Process at the Guggenheim program November 5 and 6 celebrating the 50th anniversary of Le Clercq’s The Ballet Cook Book.

Full of recipes from the major ballet stars of her day (including choreographers such as Sir Frederick Ashton and Léonide Massine), The Ballet Cook Book stretches beyond the trappings of the genre to include anecdotes about the dancers who contributed, providing snapshots of the artists who defined the era. Balanchine in particular is revealed to be an avid cook in the 28-page section devoted to his Russian-style recipes. Through it all, Le Clercq’s personality and sparkling humor shine, such as in her introduction to her Celery Root Soufflé recipe, which reads, “Soufflés fall and so do dancers, and both survive: the main thing is to forget it.”

The official launch of the book in 1967 included a signing event at Bloomingdale’s that was attended by New York City Ballet stars (and contributors) Jacques d’Amboise, Allegra Kent and Melissa Hayden, who also cooked one of her recipes on site for attendees to sample. An article documenting the event appeared in the November 1967 issue of Dance Magazine alongside a two-page excerpt—part of what sparked Rosofsky’s interest in the Cook Book.

For the Works & Process event, d’Amboise and Kent will join Rosofsky and current NYCB dancers Jared Angle and Adrian Danchig-Waring (both avid foodies) for a conversation about NYCB’s culinary culture and Le Clercq’s legacy. NYCB dancers will also perform excerpts from ballets originated by Le Clercq and other contributors to the Cook Book, such as Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments and Stars and Stripes, giving Le Clercq her just desserts as a dancer, and a writer, and a food lover.