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Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief
by Unknown Photographer
Biography >> Native Americans


Early Life

Maria Tallchief was born in Fairfax, Oklahoma on the Osage Indian Reservation in 1925. Her mother, Ruth Porter, was a Scots-Irish woman who loved music and dance. Her father, Alexander Tallchief, was an Osage Indian who had become wealthy from oil discovered on the Osage land.

Growing up Maria enjoyed playing outdoors with her sister Marjorie. She also loved music and dancing. She played the piano and practiced dance with the local dance instructor. Sometimes her mother would let Maria and her sister listen to the music and watch the dancers from the Osage tribe as they celebrated their culture in secret.

Moving to Los Angeles

When Maria turned eight years old her family moved to Los Angeles, California. She was amazed when she first saw the Pacific Ocean. Right away she began taking dance lessons at Mr. Belcher's School of Ballet.

Maria's days were very busy. She would get up early each morning and practice the piano for an hour before school. Then she would practice another hour of piano after school and attend ballet lessons. It sounds like a lot of work, but Maria loved it.

Choosing to Dance

At the age of twelve her father told Maria that she had to choose dance or piano. She could not do both. It was a tough decision. She chose dance. She also began training at a new ballet school. Her new teacher was the famous Russian ballerina Madame Nijinska.

Madame Nijinska taught Maria for the next five years. Maria learned how to dance with power, grace, and emotion. She learned that perfection was not enough, but that she also had to feel and dance with the music.

New York

Maria's dream was to join the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. When she was seventeen she moved to New York to pursue her dream. Soon she was a member of the famous Russian ballet company. She was such a good dancer that she became a featured soloist.

Maria traveled the world and danced in many of the most famous ballet houses in Europe. In 1947 she became the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet.

Maria retired from dancing in 1965. She founded the Chicago City Ballet with her sister in 1981.


Maria is considered by many to be one of the greatest dancers in the world. She won many honors throughout her career. Here is a list of a few of them: . Interesting Facts about Maria Tallchief

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