Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq at McGowan Theater Thursday, Aug. 28

The story sounds straight out of a Lifetime movie: A stunning young dancer—the muse of her partner and choreographer—is stricken by a grave illness and doesn’t know if she’ll ever walk again, let alone dance. To do so, she must overcome all odds. And of course, the woman in question is gorgeous. Let the teenyboppers pay $12 to weep for Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars. The grownups should go see Afternoon of the Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq. This new documentary about a 27-year-old ballerina who was paralyzed by polio in 1956 is an unsentimental gut punch that contrasts the constricting grip of the iron lung with free-floating footage of Le Clercq’s dancing, presenting her as a modern American ballerina, equally comfortable when dressed as a fairy princess or performing abstract works in a leotard. Her most acclaimed role was in Jerome Robbins’ Prelude to the Afternoon of Fawn, but she also inspired (and married) New York City Ballet director George Balanchine; her movements captivated both everyday men and dance aficionados around the world. Yes, it’s a dance movie, but it’s just as much about love, the polio epidemic, and overcoming disability. The film shows at 7 p.m. at the National Archives’ McGowan Theater, 7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. archives.gov.

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