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Maria Tallchief, RIP

89 posts in this topic

I liked this too. I went to a powwow today (mostly Navajo) and I was quite grateful to be there. I love this photo of Tallchief:

http://www.gettyimag...-photo/50317781

Yes, that's a great image, partly because it shows a different side to Tallchief, but I also like that it is an unposed snapshot. The powwow must have been really great to take part in.

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As one of the most important American Ballerinas and, too, specifically for her role as a history-making Balanchine Ballerina,Tallchief deserves every accolade. I never saw her except in video clips--which do indicate what a thrilling, beautiful dancer she was. RIP.

The documentary "Dancing for Mr. B.: Six Balanchine Ballerinas" includes a magical clip of Tallchief's Berceuse from Firebird - apparently shot in a broom closet, but she truly casts a spell.

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I'm sorry to have been away from Ballet Alert for a few days and thus not able to join this discussion earlier. Tallchief was phasing out of the NYCB when I firsts began attending regularly, so I don't recall details from that period. I especialy regret that I never saw her Firebird. She was still the great name in the company -- still the prima ballerina. I do remember that an appearance by Tallchief in a regular rep evening -- never publicized in advance, if I recall correctly -- was thrilling news indeed.

I guess that I will always think of her name in intimate association with Balanchine's, though she was never what became to be known as a "Balanchine dancer." Drew and others are right to call our attention to the "non-Balanchine" aspects of her career prior to and after NYCB -- her return to the classical rep, her guesting, coaching, and teaching, and her work with her own companies in Chicago.

Thanks, phrank, for that clip of Tallchief and Bruhn in the Don Q pdd. Tallchief never had a partner in Bruhn's league at NYCB. I was touched at how wonderfully he supported her and how she blossomed in his hands and company. I loved the untypical big smile at certain points.

(It was interesting to watch her "Balanchinian" take on the fouettes. 6 or so fouettes -- followed by a transition of quick chainees into a rapid blur of pique pirouettes around the stage.)

It is sad to know that she is no longer with us. But ... she lived. And how she danced.

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Sorry to double-post, but I just discovered this excerpt from an article by Edwin Denby, 1953. It speaks to the matter of Tallchief as both a Balanchine and a classical dancer.

,,,In spirit, classic artists of the past are present at a serious performance and watch it with attention. And as I see Tallchief dance now in Concerto Barocco, I feel that they invisibly smile at her, they encourage her, they blow her little Italian kisses. They danced steps that were different but they understand what she means to do; her courage night after night is like theirs.

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I guess that I will always think of her name in intimate association with Balanchine's, though she was never what became to be known as a "Balanchine dancer."

Certainly physically she didn't have what we think of as the Balanchine "look." But I'd say you could make a case for Tallchief as the ultimate Balanchine dancer (not that you can ever settle that particular argument). As Melissa Hayden told Robert Tracy:

She's [Tallchief] turned in. She doesn't have a typical line. Yet she certainly is a Balanchine dancer. You make yourself a Balanchine dancer by dancing his ballets. Your legs change, your body changes, you become a filly....You're flying.

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As Tallchief herself explained:

The first minute here:

From about a minute in here:

As far as how Tallchief should be known, the dance world might think of her centrality to Balanchine, but the general public who saw her on TV -- back in the day when dancers were shown on TV and far more people saw her that way than at City Center -- would more likely remember her as the dancer in "Swan Lake," "Les Sylphides," and "Don Quixote" than in "Pas de Dix" or "Scotch Symphony."

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Wonderful clips. It's remarkable to see Tallchief as someone who was so curious about unfamiliar technique -- so willing to learn, not only from an established ballerina by Moylan but also from a very young LeClercq. That's a very attractive quality in someone who was already an established star.

In the clip posted above in #9, she discusses Firebird, saying that after a while with Balanchine "I had completely changed." The rehearsal clip of the Berceuse gives a hint of the result of that change. The snippet of performance film from 1961, dancing with Michael Maule, shows even more, though we still have a sense of ballerina magnificence in that last gesture. http://danceinteract...f-michael-maule

The Ballet Russe influence is still visible, I think, in both clips As it was with the dancer who followed Tallchief as the most frequent Firebird, Melissa Hayden, from Ballet Theater. Both dancers had grandeur, largeness of scale, even when pleading with the Prince. Gelsey Kirkland's approach with the revised choreography later on -- more fragile, more febrile, more airborne, more "birdlike" -- was at the other extreme of Firebirds. I guess all dancers who have done the role occupy a place somewhere along the spectrum whose poles are Tallchief and Kirkland.

By the way, I've been told that Tallchief was involved in the mid-80s NYCB revival that featured Lourdes Lopez, a superb Firebird,who expressed the qualities of woman and bird in a very satisfying way.

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according to the INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF BALLET, Tallchief first danced Balanchine's THEME AND VARIATIONS on a tour with Ballet Theatre in 1949. the attached scan, of the cover for an issue of THE DANCE OBSERVER, dated March 1950, documents what may well have been one of Tallchief's debuts.

post-848-0-38648300-1366068231_thumb.jpg

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Mme. Hermine, according to the obit in the Chicago Tribune, that 1966 Bell Television Hour R&J was her last performance in America. John Butler's choreography for this great dance of awakening love is certainly unique, with almost nothing for poor Romeo to do except support and occasionally lift Juliet.

Also from the Tribune is something relating to her comment about "changing completely" when she began to dance for Balanchine:

Under Balanchine, Tallchief changed physically. Her neck grew longer. She dropped 10 pounds. She took on the deportment of the Russian stylist. Her chest was high, her back straight, her instep arched. "What did I learn? I learned to turn out. How to point my toes properly. Where I belonged. Where to place my body. What muscles had to be developed — every one. Otherwise there was no way I was going to dance his ballets.''

Later, she passed on her Balanchine lessons, "telling my young dancers, 'Strengthen, build the muscles. The arches, they must be right, or the line is not right.'''

http://www.chicagotr...0,3364156.story

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Thanks so much for the Gaite clip -- I hadn't seen it before. It looks like they were performing in broad daylight.

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A photo from Balanchine's The Nutcraker with Maria as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Isn't that Tanaquil LeClercq as Drewdrop?

alfred-eisenstaedt-ballerina-maria-tallchief-and-others-performing-the-nutcracker-ballet-at-city-center.jpg

nutcracker-maria-tallchief-eisenstadt.jpg

alfred-eisenstaedt-ballerina-maria-tallchief-performing-the-nutcracker-ballet-at-city-center.jpg

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yes, that would appear to be TLClercq as Dewdrop, supported by Franciso Moncion and probably Paul "Rusty" Nickel as the Nutcracker Prince

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Well, there's more Tallchief turning up -- this is more of the original Mozartiana than i have ever seen before, Tallchief in the "Gigue" -- I'd love to see more, but I'm THRILLED to see even this much. Thank God for Nick Wallace Smith.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcClLMd11as

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I love Maria's tutu..! happy.png

Tasty! (I know, sugar plums must be edible, but that's what came to me.)

Thanks for the images, GeorgeB fan; they were unfamiliar. And now I know better what people were talking about when they said the redesigned Nutcracker was overdone. These designs are lovely and simple.

How about some eyewitness testimony to go with your images?

After intermission, dressed now in my beautiful tutu, I adjusted my tiara and made my entrance. I stood in the wings for most of the second act, preparing for the pas de deux. I was worried. To calm down I watched Tanny lead the "Waltz of the Flowers." What a performance! Watching her you could see all of George's training in the precision of her feet and legs, her beautiful port de bras, her response to the music. She was a dazzling dancer, and every time she left the stage I could hear the applause. By the end the audience was screaming, "Bravo!" It took a while for the cheering to die down.

Then, suddenly, Nicky and I were on, and we began dancing to this quiet but very grand music. The entree went well, and the adagio finished as I jumped into his arms. The audience started to shout and scream. The reaction was deafening, a true ovation. George had made magic again. He had created a monument to the joy of childhood and family life, and to the beauty of music and dancing. I wondered if, among all the treasures he had given me, this wasn't the greatest yet.

These are of course the words of the great lady we remember here, from her autobiography of 1997, describing the premiere.

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A photo from Balanchine's The Nutcraker with Maria as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Isn't that Tanaquil LeClercq as Drewdrop?

I've seen the one of LeClercq and Tallchief before but in black-and-white. It is always amazing to see such photos in color. Thank you for posting them.

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A photo from Balanchine's The Nutcraker with Maria as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Isn't that Tanaquil LeClercq as Drewdrop?

I've seen the one of LeClercq and Tallchief before but in black-and-white. It is always amazing to see such photos in color. Thank you for posting them.

And the poster, excuse me, the photographic print, is available at allposters.com (there is an enlarged online image to look at as well):

http://www.allposter...s_i3780404_.htm

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I hope everyone has had the chance to click the LINK to Joan Acocella's piece in the latest New Yorker. Postscript: Maria Tallchief (1925-2013) Thanks to dirac for posting it.

Acocella's text includes insights and information that I had not read elsewhere. Especiall relevant for this thread are

-- some personal stuff which helps fill out the picture of a complex human being;

-- the influence of hear early teacher Nijinska (Her husband and translator once came up in class to the young Tallchief and whispered, "Madame think you look like spaghetti.");

-- her work with Balanchine, about whom Acocella writes, "she was the first woman on whom he practiced at length."

I especially loved this verbal snapshot of Tallchief -- intense, devoted to every detail of presentation -- coaching a very young Jennie Somogyi in "Pas de Dix" back in 1995:

Fingers out—all the way out! That’s it. Now back here—yum-tada-tum—head! Here, here, head! Yes. Now hand across the face. Remember, like a veil. Don’t throw it away, Jenny. Find your elbow, find your head. Chest up. Waist in. Where’s your fanny? Tucked in. Good. Don’t hurry. Yes. Yum-tada-tum. Pas de bourrée. You’re saying to the audience, ‘Look at my beautiful feet.’ Now arms. You’re saying, ‘Look at my beautiful gestures.’ And now—‘Look at what I’m going to do next!’

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I loved this quote:

The example that is always written about today is Suzanne Farrell, but great as she was—for many, the greatest of all his dancers, in sixty years—this is partly because so many of the writers in question witnessed her career, and not the others’.

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I loved this quote:

The example that is always written about today is Suzanne Farrell, but great as she was—for many, the greatest of all his dancers, in sixty years—this is partly because so many of the writers in question witnessed her career, and not the others’.

Me too. People need to be reminded of this more often.

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A photo from Balanchine's The Nutcraker with Maria as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Isn't that Tanaquil LeClercq as Drewdrop?

I've seen the one of LeClercq and Tallchief before but in black-and-white. It is always amazing to see such photos in color. Thank you for posting them.

And the poster, excuse me, the photographic print, is available at allposters.com (there is an enlarged online image to look at as well):

http://www.allposter...s_i3780404_.htm

Wow, thanks for the link. They also have some nice photo prints of Tanaquil LeClercq and Arthur Mitchell in Western Symphony. Who knew?

P.S. Thank you for the link to the New Yorker profile - although I could have done without Croce's take on Tallchief's romantic life.

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