Sunday, April 14, 2013

Maria Tallchief, First Native American Prima Ballerina

Sorry to do one more tribute, but this wonderful woman died last week on Thursday.  I do promise the next post will be about something fun...(I'm currently in the middle of reading the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy). 

Maria Tallchief was my childhood inspiration.  My mom put me in ballet class when I was very young.  I enjoyed it, but when I saw Maria Tallchief dance on television, ballet became an obsession. Not only did she inspire me, she inspired lots of little girls around the country.

She was a native American who was born and raised on a reservation in Oklahoma.  After years of study with many famous ballet instructors in Los Angeles, she auditioned for a place with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.  Later she won a place in a New York City ballet company.  It was there she met the eminent Russian choreographer George Balanchine.  She created several notable roles in his ballets, such as the Firebird, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker.

After she retired from dancing professionally, she continued working with ballet students for the rest of her life, founding the Chicago Ballet Company.  In 1996 she was one of five honorees for the Kennedy Center Honors for outstanding contribution to American culture.

Her younger sister, Marjorie Tallchief, was also a prima ballerina with her own career.  One of their brothers played football for the University of Oklahoma and the Pittsburg Steelers.

Thanks to Maria Tallchief's influence, five girls from the reservation where she was born, grew up to have careers in ballet.

She never lost sight of her Osage heritage.  In later years she spoke of her heritage and their illustrious history to various groups.

She was an amazing, gifted artist in her chosen world of ballet, a demanding and sometimes unforgiving world.

Thank you, Madame, for gracing us with your artistry.

I loved dancing, but it became obvious as a teenager that I was a mediocre dancer at best.  Besides, as my grandmother said, I was built to be an opera singer...take that as you will.

Until next time...


  1. Sharon, thank you for giving us a glimpse of Maria Tallchief's life. As always, I love reading your blogs.

    1. Thank you, Vickie.

      I'm glad you enjoy the blogs.

  2. Lovely. I wish I had known about her before we lost her.