Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief was the first American woman to achieve the vaunted status of prima ballerina; this was all the more amazing since she was also the first Native American to be acclaimed in ballet. Gaining her start in 1942 with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, she later moved to the New York City Ballet, during which time she had a six-year childless marriage with famed choreographer George Balanchine, and where she danced until she was 40.

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1925, Tallchief trained in California under Bronislava Nijinska, who encouraged her to live every part of her life as though she were a ballerina. This early form of creative visualization would prove wildly successful...

During her marriage to Balanchine Tallchief acted as his muse, dancing the lead in his ballets The Firebird and his own distinctive staging of The Nutcracker, which has become the standard; following their divorce she married the aviator Elmourza Natirboff and subsequently builder Henry 'Buzz' Paschen, with whom she had a daughter, poet and educator Elise Paschen.

Maria Tallchief has been honoured by the name Wa-Xthe-Thomba ('Woman of Two Worlds'), which was granted to her by the Governor of Oklahoma, her birth state. She was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 1996, at the same time as Johnny Cash, Jack Lemmon, Edward Albee, and Benny Carter and received the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1999. She is also honoured in the statue The Five Moons - alongside Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Marjorie Tallchief - located in the garden of the Tulsa Historical Society.
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