Marjorie Louise Tallchief (b. 1926)
• First Native American danseuse étoile in the Paris Opera • Danced for Heads of State
Last updated 9/10/2018 at 5:17pm
Known as one of the Five Moons, celebrated ballerina Marjorie Louise Tallchief (Osage descent) was the younger sister of acclaimed ballerina, Maria Tallchief. Marjorie was born in Denver, Colorado but grew up in Fairfax, Oklahoma, along with her siblings, including her brother, Gerald. The family moved to Los Angeles to further the girls' ballet training.
There, Marjorie studied under Ernest Belcher, teacher and dance director, whose school of dance in 1942 was considered the finest in Los Angeles. In addition, Tallchief was tutored by renowned Polish ballerina, Bronislava Nijinska, at her School of Ballet, also located in Los Angeles. Russian-American ballet dancer and choreographer David Lichine-who enjoyed an illustrious international career as a ballet master and choreographer-was one of Marjorie's tutors as well.
Tallchief was the first Native American premiere danseuse étoile in the Paris Opera, and danced with the American Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1946-1947). She also danced with the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas (1948-1955) and other companies. Among Tallchief's most acclaimed performances were Night Shadow, Romeo and Juliet, and Giselle.
Tallchief danced for heads of state that included John F. Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle, and Lyndon B. Johnson. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1991, and in May 1992, the University of Oklahoma presented her with a Distinguished Service award.
Among other contributions to her craft, Marjorie Tallchief was director of dance for Civic Ballet Academy, Dallas, Texas; City Ballet in Chicago; and the Harid Conservatory, Boca Raton, Florida (1989) where she remained until she retired in 1993.
The Five Moons: Internationally famous Oklahoma prima ballerinas
During the 20th century, five accomplished Native American ballerinas rose to international prominence, each from the state of Oklahoma. Bronze statues in their honor were dubbed The Five Moons. The larger than life images are displayed in the garden of the Tulsa Historical society.
When Oklahoma celebrated its powerful dance heritage (October 8, 1997), Governor Frank Keating designated the five Native American ballerinas "Oklahoma Treasures". The ceremony, a fusion of classical and tribal styles, took place at the state capitol.
All five of the women were born when government statutes prohibited all tribal rituals, so powwows and other ceremonies were held in secret in order to keep Native cultures alive. Each of the ballerinas recalled the excitement they felt as children when they participated in these secret gatherings.
Now highly acclaimed, the dancers sat on the podium as internationally celebrated ballerinas: Maria Tallchief and her sister Marjorie Tallchief; Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, and Moscelyne Larkin. Ceremonial shawls created by members of their respective tribes were presented to each of the dancers to be worn at powwows in an age where everyone was welcome!
A version of this article appears in the biographical collection, 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World, by KB Schaller.
Bronislava Nijinska, Biography, IMDb
Prevots, Naima, Ernest Belcher and American Dance
Webpage, Oklahoma Historical Society, Tallchief, Marjorie Louise
Wikipedia, David Lichine
Wikipedia, Marjorie Tallchief
KB Schaller(Cherokee/Seminole heritage) is a journalist, researcher, novelist and illustrator. Her biographical collection 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World was winner of an International Book Award, Women's Issues Category. Other KB Schaller books are available through her secure website, http://www.kbschaller.com; Amazon.com and other booksellers. KB Schaller lives in South Florida.