Pas de Deux? Pas du Tout!*

Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, after being stricken with polio, with her then-husband, George Balanchine/LIFE

Luther Gulick, as we never tire of telling, was a pioneer of public administration, master planner, urban visionary, statesman and policy strategist, confidant of FDR, and Mayor Robert Wagner, advisor to the Shah of Iran, Gamal Abdel Nasser and countless other leaders the world over. Gulick’s gift was teaching politicians how to translate their prescriptions for society’s betterment into actual workable programs.

Gulick was lots of things. But a balletomane?

Yes, that too. The files reveal him as an aficionado of the dance, knowledgable and confident enough to share his insights with even George Balanchine. In 1956, Balanchine’s wife, Tanaquil Le Clercq, was stricken with polio while on tour in Copenhagen.

Gulick, who had long supported New York City Center, the city’s original performing arts venue, founded by Mayor LaGuardia, frequented the ballet whenever possible and was moved to write Balanchine in sorrow and solidarity with “your battle in Copenhagen.” He took the opportunity to critique a performance of the Ballet Theater that had fallen short – “showy but mediocre” in Gulick’s view.



* Pas de Deux, is French for a ballet duet. Pas du tout is French for “Not at all.”