Timeline Description: Maria Tallchief (1925 to 2013) was not only one of America's first prima ballerinas, but also the first Native American ballerina. Throughout her life, Tallchief brought energy and fire to her roles.
|January 24, 1925||Born on Reservation in Oklahoma
Maria Tallchief, then called Betty Marie, was the daughter of an Osage father and a Scottish-Irish mother. She was born on an Osage reservation in Fairfax, Oklahoma. Her paternal grandfather had a role in negotiating land rights, including mineral rights for the Osage. The family was, because of these rights, relatively wealthy.
|1933||Moved to Los Angeles
When Maria Tallchief was eight, the family left the reservation, moving to Los Angeles. Tallchief's mother wanted her two daughters to study at a fine dance school, run by Ernest Belcher. Belcher retrained the girls.
|1936||Changed Dance Schools
After several years of study with Belcher, Maria Tallchief moved to a school for ballet run by Madame Nijinska. Madame Ninjinska was the sister of a well-known ballet dancer, Vasly Ninjinsky.
|1930||Auditioned for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo(Late 1930s)
While still in high school, Tallchief auditioned for the Russian Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The company director wanted her to finish high school before dancing professionally.
|1942||Moved to New York City
After high school, Tallchief moved to New York City to pursue dance. She was hired by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and took the name Maria, as there were already a number of Elizabeths and Maries in the ballet company.
|1944||Danced in Balanchine's Productions(1944 to 1946)
After joining the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Maria danced in a number of productions by George Balanchine, serving as his muse. Parts in well-known ballets, including Swan Lake, were written for her.
Maria Tallchief married George Balanchine in 1946. The two lived and worked in Paris until 1947.
|1947||Returned to New York
Balanchine brought Maria back to New York, and the Ballet Society. The Ballet Society would later become the New York City Ballet.
By 1949, Maria Tallchief was the Prima Ballerina of the New York City Ballet. She was unusual as a Native American ballerina, but also as an American Prima Ballerina.
|1952||Anna Pavlova in "Million Dollar Mermaid"
In 1952, Maria appeared on the big screen alongside Esther Williams as the character Anna Pavlova in the movie "Million Dollar Mermaid." She continued to dance as the Prima Ballerina for the New York City Ballet.
|1954||Danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo(1954 to 1955)
Tallchief danced again with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo for a short period in the 1950s as a guest. She was the highest paid ballerina in history at that time.
|1966||Retired from Ballet
Tallchief retired from ballet in 1966. She moved to Chicago, becoming a part of that city's ballet scene.
|1970||Founded Ballet School(Mid-1970s)
In the mid-1970s, Tallchief founded the Ballet School of the Lyric Opera in Chicago. She later went on to serve as the artistic direction of the Chicago City Ballet. She retired from this post in 1987.
|1996||Inducted into Women's Hall of Fame
Tallchief was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1996.
|April 11, 2013||Maria Tallchief Died
Maria Tallchief died in 2013 in a hospital in Chicago, Illinois.