Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief was widely regarded as one of the most brilliant American ballerinas of the 20th century, inextricably linked to the New York City Ballet and to George Balanchine, whom she married in 1946. She told in her autobiography of spending their wedding night in the summer home of Balanchine's costume designer, Karinska, which happened to be near Jacob's Pillow on George Carter Road. She didn't dance at the Pillow until five years later, at around the time that she and Balanchine separated, but she continued with his company for the next 15 years while becoming a regular at the Pillow. In dozens of performances here, she was partnered by Michael Maule, André Eglevsky, Erik Bruhn, Scott Douglas, Oleg Briansky, and Peter Van Dyk. In addition to her many Pillow appearances, she also participated in a Sunday Dance Appreciation Course in the Ted Shawn Theatre, collaborating with writer Walter Terry in a presentation entitled “The Art of the Ballerina.” And she allowed her illustrious name to be used for various Pillow committees over the years, most recently the 65th Anniversary Season Artists Committee in 1997. In honor of another anniversary several years later, she hand-wrote a card that read simply, “Ted Shawn was a very dear friend and I have never known anyone more devoted to the Art of Dance.” Shawn was equally devoted to Tallchief, and he named a student cabin in her honor in 1965. For her last four decades, she was headquartered in Chicago where she founded the ballet school of the Chicago Lyric Opera and directed the Chicago City Ballet. She died at 88 in April 2013, and among her survivors is ballerina sister Marjorie Tallchief. The two Tallchief sisters were among five prominent Oklahoma-born ballerinas of Native American heritage—also including Rosella Hightower, Yvonne Chouteau, and Moscelyne Larkin— all of whom danced at the Pillow.
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