She came in on the arm of Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey's Artistic Director; Adam Sklute, one of the Company's two Assistant Artistic Directors, and Welz Kaufman, described in the performance program as a pianist who is in his spare time the Ravinia Festival's Chief Executive Officer, and who "moderated" the panel by asking questions when the others ran out of things to say, were the others.
Tallchief said she first danced Apollo in 1947. She knew in high school that she wanted to be a ballet dancer, and so she learned French, but Michel Renault, who didn't understand English, couldn't understand the counts or anything else she said.
Arpino said that he went into dance against his family's wishes. Maria was the greatest, one of his greatest favorites. He works topically from the news of the day, he said, and did a work about the wrongful execution of a man.
Tallchief: It was beautifully done.
Arpino: Bob [Robert Joffrey] and I were students at the School of American Ballet. Maria said not to tell this story tonight [Tallchief made a fist and frowned at him, then smiled at us] but one day she came in with an armful of toe shoes and said, Take these back! There's not one I can wear!
Tallchief: I started with Nijinska who told me when I finished, don't go to the back, come to the front and see what your friends do, and it was beautiful! ... George never talked about ballet. If you talked about it, he would talk about cooking... He was first a musician, and a poet. [recalled her variation in Orpheus, singing some of it]
Balanchine commissioned Firebird Suite so Stravinsky could make some money. George said, Never choreograph in class, but when he started giving me steps for Firebird, I thought, these steps are familiar; he'd been giving them in class... We started rehearsing Firebird at 6AM, but poor Frank Moncion was not a morning person. Balanchine underlit the Chagall backdrop "because otherwise we won't see you".
Sklute: Maria coached our dancers in Apollo; afterward, they said, When is she coming back? They were like sponges, they soaked it up and wanted more.
This program is purposely eclectic, as Mr. Arpino has preferred, and it shows Balanchine's range, especially Apollo, which is very different from the others.
Tallchief: Agnes deMille gave me my name. I was Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief. She came backstage and suggested the change. Colonel Denham wanted me to be Tallchieva. [audience laughter] Cyd Charisse still knows me as Betty Marie.
Arpino: Mr. B. was very generous. He gave us two struggling guys trying to make a company some ballets, including costumes, free of charge.
Tallchief: He was a marvelous cook.
Whether because she had warmed to her subject or had been energized by our applause or for some other reason, Maria Tallchief needed the help of no one's arm leaving the stage.
Edited by Jack Reed, 30 December 2004 - 02:21 PM.