Posts Tagged ‘Marjorie Tallchief’

My parents sometimes took me to the New York City ballet when I was little, and once or twice we went backstage. I think I got the autograph of Maria Tallchief, but I was too young to be careful with it for a lifetime.

Recently, I was interested to see an article by Allison Meier on Tallchief and four other American Indian ballet dancers. I had not known there were five. The article is at the website Hypoallergic, and the lead came from ArtsJournal.com.

Meier writes, “Five dancers who started their careers in the 1940s redefined dance in the United States, becoming some of the first American prima ballerinas in the world’s top companies, from the Ballets Russes to the Paris Opera Ballet. And they were all American Indians from Oklahoma.

“Yvonne Chouteau, one of the ‘Five Moons,’ as they were anointed, died [January 24] at the age of 86. Along with Moscelyne Larkin (Shawnee, 1925–2012), Rosella Hightower (Choctaw, 1920–2008), Marjorie Tallchief (Osage, b. 1926), and, most famously, Maria Tallchief (Osage, 1925–2013), she rose in the ranks of dance when ballet was still not widely appreciated in this country. The women had distinct careers, but they all danced when they were young at powows and caught performances by the traveling Ballets Russes and other companies, propelling them to study professionally. …

“Nora Boustany wrote in Hightower’s Los Angeles Times obituary that the women’s ‘remarkable accomplishments showcased American dance and talent to the world when Russian stars still dominated that scene.’

“And as Larkin said in a short documentary produced by NewsOK: ‘It’s not just a fluke that we are all Native Americans and that we all became dancers.’

“In the Oklahoma State Capitol, a mural of the five dancers adorns the rotunda. Painted by Mike Larsen, it shows them posed in white tutus, the shadows of the Trail of Tears behind them. Each had a unique style and left her own legacy, but together they promoted their indigenous heritage through the art of dance.”

More here.

Photo: Roger Wood
Maria Tallchief in ‘Swan Lake’ in 1952. (The photo is housed at the New York Public Library, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

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