The dancer Tanaquil Le Clercq lived her life fully after being partially paralyzed by polio at the age of 27. She taught ballet classes at Dance Theatre of Harlem and wrote a cookbook as well as a children’s book. Her legs and one hand may not have functioned as they once did, but everything else about her continued to thrive, including her wit.
“She had an astonishing sense of humor about her physical condition,” says her friend Randy Bourscheidt in an outtake interview from American Masters — Tanaquil Le Clercq: Afternoon of a Faun. He tells a story illustrating how people with a visible disability are not always shown the respect they deserve, and how humor is always a good comeback.
Le Clerq, in a wheelchair, and Bourscheidt faced a long line at a New York City movie theater, so they approached the manager to ask if they could go to the head of the line in order to secure a place that would accommodate them.
Bourscheidt describes what happened: “Looking at me over her head, he said ‘Does she get out of the chair?’ and from below him she said, “Yes, and she talks, too!”