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Maria Tallchief, RIP

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Well she's with the angels and Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn and Stravinsky and Balanchine now.

I wish I'd seen her -- Francis Mason was not the only one to think of her days as the most exciting ones of all. She's on the cover of i remember Balanchine. i've recently been watching her in Allegro Brillante and Scotch on youtube and finding her musicality attack, precision thrilling. I showed her in Scotch to a friend who thought it was Kitsch and I just had to bite my tongue, cuz I thought it was romantic, the separations of hte lovers were harsh and unbearable and made my heart pound but I wasn't about to try to explain that to him, he'd just have been embarrassed for him and i'd have been forced to cut him off.

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Here's from the first chapter of her autobiography:
What a strong, clear mind -- and what wit! Balanchine never loved a woman who wasn't smart and a wit.

"My father, Alexander Joseph Tall Chief, was a full-blooded Osage Indian. Six foot two, he walked with a sturdy gait and loved to hunt. The story goes that he could stroll through the woods, rifle in hand, spot a quail or pheasant out of the corner of his eye, point the gun, and shoot the bird without breaking his stride. With his strong aquiline profile, Daddy resembled the Indian on the buffalo-head nickel. Women found him handsome, and when I was young I idolized him.

My earliest memory of my father is from when I was three. I slept in a second-floor bedroom with my sister Marjorie, who was an infant. One evening when I fell asleep in the living room, Daddy picked me up. Snuggled in his arms, I remember waking as we climbed the stairs. I can still see his dark eyes, his tender smile, his shiny black hair.

When Daddy was a boy, oil was discovered on Osage land, and overnight the tribe became rich. As a young girl growing up on the Osage reservation in Fairfax, Oklahoma, I felt my father owned the town. He had property everywhere. The local movie theater on Main Street, and the pool hall opposite, belonged to him. Our ten-room, terra-cotta-brick house stood high on a hill overlooking the reservation.

When my father was a young man, he married a young German immigrant and they had three children--two boys, Alexander (whom everyone called Hunky) and Tommy, and a girl, Frances. They were little children when their mother died. Later, when Ruth Porter, my mother, came to Fairfax to visit her sister, who worked as a cook and housekeeper for my Grandma Tall Chief, Daddy was Fairfax's most eligible bachelor. Mother must have arrived tired and dusty from her long journey, but from what I'm told there was an instant attraction between them.

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A great ballerina. My mother saw her dance many times and never forgot her. I witnessed several coaching lectures she gave. Her carriage and the imagery she spoke of always had an instant effect on the dancers. During one of the symposiums Jacques d'Amboise paid tribute to her:

“We never had an international ballet star in America until Maria. What made it more magnificent was that she was a true Native American. There was Danilova, but she was Russian, and Alonso, but she was Cuban. Maria was our first star. And it was “Firebird” that launched her in that stratosphere.”

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When Balanchine was at the Paris Opera, was not Tallchief with him and dancing? Was she the first American to do so? Also, wasn't Nureyev's North American debut with Tallchief? (Please correct me if I'm wrong... I don't trust my memory)

Augusta Maywood was first on the stage at POB,(1839) , but perhaps Tallchief was next? (Thanks, Nancy, for joggingbmy memory). http://michaelminn.net/andros/biographies/maywood_augusta/

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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.

And her father was never an "oil man" to my knowledge. When oil was found on Osage lands, they eventually sold out, "packed up the truck, and moved to Beverly - HIlls that is." Very American.

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