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The Master's Muse

About the Book

The Master's Muse

In the tradition of LOVING FRANK and THE PARIS WIFEcomes an unforgettable novel based on the life of George Balanchine’s fifth wife, a star ballerina whose career was cut short after she contracted polio at age twenty-six.


Once author Varley O’Connor, the daughter of a polio survivor, came across the facts about Tanaquil (Tanny) Le Clercq, she could not get the story out of her mind. O’Connor dug deeper, reading countless articles and interviews, and watching hundreds of hours of documentaries and New York City Ballet footage to capture Le Clercq’s essence. The result is an evocative, compelling portrayal of the seventeen-year marriage between George Balanchine—the ballet master credited with creating an American style of dance—and his final wife, Tanaquil Le Clercq. 

In 1956, hours after performing with the New York City Ballet in Copenhagen, Tanny fell suddenly and gravely ill, awaking from a feverous sleep only to find that she could no longer move her legs. Balanchine quit the ballet for a year to care for his wife, crafting exercises to help her regain her strength, deepening their partnership and love for one another. In the ensuing years, after Tanny discovers she will never walk again, her marriage is challenged as she endeavors to create a new identity for herself and George returns to the company, choreographing new ballets inspired by the ever-younger, more beautiful and talented dancers.

Set against the backdrop of fashionable, creative New York of the 1960s and 70s, THE MASTER’S MUSE tells the remarkable true story of two artistic legends whose profound love and complicated relationship forever changed American cultural history.

The Master's Muse
by Varley O'Connor