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Maria Tallchief, RIPsad news tweeted by an individual involved with the NIKOLAI play


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#46 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 03:06 PM

Though by all means we should remember her entire career.


Amen to that. Posted Image (BTW...did she ever dance Giselle...?)

#47 pherank

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 03:48 PM


>> Beware the really harsh and garbled audio track - you may want to turn your speakers way down

Whew! Point well taken, pherank. AD Films dropped the ball. This - and many of the other clips linked here - is on VAI DVD 4234, The Art of Maria Tallchief, my copy of which gives smooth, sweet sound, steady in pitch, and an image so much clearer than this one you even get the light gauzy effect somebody put on the screen in Scotch (but you can see them fine through it). So maybe consider this as a kind of preview. There were several copies of the VAI disk offered on Amazon when I checked a few minutes ago; everybody use the ad on this page, okay?


I was a little surprised by this bad digital transfer - there may be a better version online somewhere. I too have seen the ones on DVD and they look a fair amount better (although the blurry vaseline lens effect used in Scotch was just a bad idea that can't be undone).

I thought this Indian Country news item would be of interest:

Osage Ballerina Maria Tallchief Walks On at 88
http://indiancountry...walks-88-148780

I like the term, "walks on"...

#48 carbro

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 04:29 PM

The NYTimes.com front page has the following lead in:

Maria Tallchief, Balanchine Ballerina, Dies
Ms. Tallchief, a daughter of an Oklahoma oil family, found her way to New York and became one of the most brilliant American ballerinas of the century. She was 88.

I take exception to the declaration that all her importance lies with Balanchine - there's nothing without Balanchine! - which is just wrong. I'm an admirer of Balanchine the artist, but these other people had lives, and long careers, and there is so much more to a life than "they danced under Balanchine". I've always thought of Tallchief as being the first American Prima Ballerina. That's big. That's enough. She also happened to have been trained by Russians, and danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and so had a Russian-style of stage presence that wasn't seen in any of the following Amercian dancers - a grandes dame.

A newspaper obit, with its space constraints, cannot cover a whole life or even a whole career, and I would agree with those who said that the Balanchine emphasis was appropriate for reasons of each one's influence on the other. However, even Balanchine might agree with you, pherank.

I have long been intrigued by the fact that, at least while she was present, when Balanchine set his own versions of Petipa's, Ivanov's and Fokine's ballets, he did so on Tallchief. His Swan Lake, Nutcracker, [Raymonda] Pas de Dix, Firebird, Pas de Trois (from Paquita). (Exceptions were Harlequinade, starring McBride, premiered in 1965, the same year Tallchief retired, and Valse et Variations [later Raymonda Variations, another take on that glorious score] in 1961.)

I had the opportunity to ask her the significance of that pattern when she spoke at some event in New York years back. I'm sure I was inarticulate, flustered in the presence of such an important person. She didn't seem to understand what I meant. She seemed taken aback, as if I were asking why Balanchine chose to choreograph on her at all -- definitely not my point.

But that he would make of her a 20th C. Odette and Sugar Plum Fairy and also the Sanguinic lead speaks volumes about her range.

#49 Jack Reed

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 06:35 PM

(BTW...did she ever dance Giselle...?)


A rhetorical question? Not just a question, but a question with a point? Like, was she deprived, for not dancing Giselle?

Well, the simple, factual answer seems to be, no, she didn't quite dance it, although she had seen it at least a few times. Balanchine, who staged it more than once, according to her autobiography, thought it wasn't right for her; Odette, yes, Giselle, no. She told Vakhtang Chabukiani when she met him on tour in Soviet Georgia in 1960; he disagreed, and proceeded to teach her Giselle and Toni Lander Myrtha. Multiple rehearsals, but a few pages later, discussing the role with Fonteyn, she tells us, "I'd never danced the role..."

She certainly considered the role important, comparing it to Hamlet in dramatic repertory. Whether she felt deprived or something, I find no hint of. There are references to Balanchine's musical facility - Tallchief, a pianist herself, raves about it. I think that's a source of her satisfaction with working with him, and may have meant more than dancing certain roles, much as she respected them.

Yeah, Odette and Sugar Plum and Sanguinic. And Firebird, of course, not to mention Eurydice. (Tallchief's autobiography lacks a list of roles.)

#50 Neryssa

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 07:23 PM

I thought this Indian Country news item would be of interest:

Osage Ballerina Maria Tallchief Walks On at 88
http://indiancountry...walks-88-148780
I like the term, "walks on"...

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

#51 pherank

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 07:52 PM

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.

#52 dirac

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 09:00 PM

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.

#53 bart

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 02:15 PM

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.

#54 bart

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 03:54 PM

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.



#55 dirac

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 04:05 PM

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.



#56 Helene

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 04:16 PM

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."

#57 bart

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 04:24 PM

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.

#58 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 06:45 AM



#59 rg

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 03:24 PM

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.

Attached Files



#60 bart

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 05:49 PM

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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