Maria Tallchief has passed away.
The Oklahoma native was the first Native American Prima Ballerina and danced with the New York City Ballet, from the company’s founding in 1947.
Tallchief was born in Fairfax, Oklahoma, her father was a chief in the Osage Nation. The family relocated to Beverly Hills in 1933 and she began studying ballet and chose to purse a dance career, which was challenging for Native Americans in those days.
Tallchief began dancing for the New York City ballet in 1947, becoming the first Prima Ballerina from 1947 to 1960. She also married Russian choreographer George Balanchine and he wrote many of his most famous works for her, she originated the role of Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” in 1954.
Tallchief danced until her retirement in 1965, then ran several ballet companies. She and her sister co-founded the Chicago City Ballet. She also received numerous honors including a Kennedy Center Honor in 1996.
There is also a statue to Tallchief and the four other Native American ballerinas, Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Marjorie Tallchief, called the Five Moons in the garden of the Tulsa Historical Society.
Maria Tallchief was 88.
Here is a clip of her dancing with Rudolf Nurayev in 1962: YouTube clip