Maria Tallchief has been recognized as the most accomplished ballerina to come out of the United States. She has studied with such notable dance teachers and choreographers as Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine. Her uniqueness and her outstanding ability blended together to create one of the most vital chapters in the history of American Dance
Maria Tallchief was born on January 24, 1925 on an Indian reservation in Fairfax, Oklahoma. While her father was a member of the Osage tribe, her mother was of Irish and Scottish descent. When Maria was quite young, her family moved to Los Angeles where Maria began music and dance lessons. Her first dance teacher was dance pioneer Bronislava Nijinska and after she studied with him for five years Maria joined the Ballet Russe de Montte Carlo. Because of her talent, she soon became a soloist in this ballet company and performed in a variety of ballets such as Scheherezade , Gaite Parisieene, and George Balanchine’s Serenade. While dancing in Song of Norway Maria met choreographer George Balanchine and the two were married in 1946. Maria became his inspiration for several of his ballets and together they turned his Ballet Society into the New York City Ballet.
Maria became very popular and her dedication to the ballet was complete. She continued her dancing career until she retired, much to the world’s surprise, in 1965. It was her intent to give up dancing after she reached her prime and turn over her love and respect for her art to younger dancers. She then turned her talents to directing and teaching.
Maria began her work at the Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet in 1975 and founded the Chicago City Ballet in 1981 and served as its director until 1987.
Maria Tallchief was not only an accomplished ballerina, but she also spent her time and energy promoting Native American culture and contributions to the arts. She was honored by the State of Oklahoma in 1953 and given the name of Wa-Xthe-Thomba, meaning “Woman of Two Worlds”. This name commemorates her international success as a prima ballerina and a Native American.
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