Home > Guest Blogger > Nancy Zeckendorf: Eulogy For Antony Tudor, 1987

Nancy Zeckendorf: Eulogy For Antony Tudor, 1987

Back row (L-R) Anthony Bliss, Sally Brayley Bliss, Rev. Grant Spalding, Seated: Antony Tudor, Mrs. "Kick" Erlanger holding Mark B. Bliss, Nancy Zeckendorf (Right) at Godson's Christening in 1968

Nancy Zeckendorf:  Dancer, Dear Tudor Friend and Philanthropist, Presenting her Eulogy for Antony Tudor:

I first met Tudor at Juilliard and studied with him there and at the old Met.  He was then Director of The Met Opera Ballet, where we also worked together.   He was my teacher, my favorite choreographer, my mentor, my inspiration, my conscience, but he was also my friend; and, in our later years a mutual trust seemed to have allowed me the role of go between and helper. 

Last August I received a letter from Tudor asking me to accompany him to The Kennedy Center for the Honors Award.  He went on in the letter to lament “even I will probably have to go through the tortures of a black tie, and probably tight shoes; and it will play hell with my old man routine.” 

But he dutifully went out to Syms and purchased the most elegant tuxedo.  He hadn’t worn one in years and he even managed to find a pair of comfortable shoes.  He wanted to take the trip by train and so we boarded Amtrak with a bag of freshly baked bran muffins for his special diet.  He polished off a few of these and then proceeded to eat anything and everything in sight for the next three days.  He even ordered a martini for lunch on the big day.  And I eyed him warily.  After all, I was supposed to take care of him; but he was fine and rejected the idea of a nap in favor of a trip to his favorite museum, The Freer, to pick up his Japanese postcards he loved so much. 

Every time we left the hotel during those three days he was surrounded by friendly faces asking him to please sign their books, or could they take his picture.  He was really quite surprised and rather pleased.  I don’t think that happened much in his life. 

The night of the awards presentation at the Kennedy Center was the most moving, enthralling experience of my life.  The moment for Tudor finally came.  Agnes DeMille brought down the house with her speech and Margot Fonteyn brought us all to tears when she said, “It is very fitting that he should receive this most prestigious Kennedy Center Honor because his extraordinary talent has enriched the whole art of dancing.” 

She held out her hand to Tudor, “Dear Antony, we the dancers and the public salute you and thank you for all you’ve given us.”  There were tears in Tudor’s eyes as he gave Margot and all of us his Buddha bow.  

It was the proudest moment of my life to have been there to see him so warmly and wonderfully applauded and cheered by that remarkable audience.  I know I speak for all of us here when I say it was an honor to be a part of his life.

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