JANUARY 24, 1925


Born in Fairfax, Oklahoma, Maria and her sister Marjorie were drawn to ballet.  After high school, Marie moved to New York City and became an understudy in the Ballet Russe, the premier Russian ballerina company in the U.S.  Her “break” came in 1942, when a prima ballerina stepped down.  In 1947, she became the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet.  After marrying choreographer George Balanchine, who created her signature Firebird role, Maria became prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet.  Her best-known role was as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker.  In 1960, she became the 1st American to perform at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.  After retiring, Maria and her sister opened the Chicago City Ballet.  She was, with Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin, and sister Marjorie, one of five Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma honored by the mural Flight of Spirit, in the Great Rotunda of the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.  Tallchief died on April 11, 2013.

Source:  Arlisha R. Norwood, “Maria Tallchief (1925-2013), National Women’s History Museum, 2017.  Retrieved 12/7/2019, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/maria-tallchief
Photo:  Author unknown, 1961.  Dance Magazine July 1961. Public Domain.

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