Tallchief, Maria

Tallchief, Maria,

1925–2013, American ballerina, b. Fairfax, Okla., as Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief. Tallchief, of Osage descent, was trained both as a pianist and a dancer. Deciding on a career in ballet, she studied under Bronislava NijinskaNijinska, Bronislava
, 1891–1972, Russian ballet dancer and choreographer; sister of Vaslav Nijinsky. She studied at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg and then joined the Mariinsky Theatre.
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, Ernest Belcher, and George BalanchineBalanchine, George
, 1904–83, American choreographer and ballet dancer, b. St. Petersburg, Russia, as Georgi Balanchivadze. The son of a Georgian composer and a Russian mother, Balanchine attended (1913–21) the Imperial Ballet School, St.
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, whom she later married. A fiery and passionate dancer, she performed with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1942 to 1947, when she joined the Ballet Society (later the New York City Ballet). Tallchief was particularly known for her performance of The Firebird (1949), a ballet created for her by Balanchine. Through 18 years as the City Ballet's prima ballerina and through her tours and television appearances with the American Ballet Theatre and other companies in the 1960s, Tallchief contributed greatly to the fame and prestige of American ballet. From 1973 to 1979 she was ballet direct at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and then was co-artistic director (1981–87) of the Chicago City Ballet.


See her autobiography (1997, with L. Kaplan).

Her younger sister, Marjorie Tallchief, 1927–, b. Denver Colo., was première danseuse with the Paris Opéra Ballet from 1957 to 1962. She also performed with many other companies, retiring in 1966.

Tallchief, Maria (b. Betty Marie)

(1925–  ) ballet dancer, teacher, artistic director; born in Fairfax, Okla. Raised in Los Angeles, she studied with Ernest Belcher and Bronislav Nijinska. One of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo's four Native American stars in the early 1940s, she married George Balanchine and returned with him to the United States. Known for her elegance and brilliance as a dancer, she performed with New York City Ballet until 1965. The ballet troupe and school she formed to serve the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1974 became the Chicago City Ballet in 1980.
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OKLAHOMA CITY--Oklahoma celebrated its rich dance heritage on October 8, 1997, when Governor Frank Keating designated as Oklahoma Treasures the five Native American ballerinas who were born there in the 1920s and went on to achieve international renown--Yvonne Chouteau, Marjorie Tallchief, Maria Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, and Moscelyne Larkin.