By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK ― The University of Oklahoma School of Dance has announced the establishment of two new endowed scholarship accounts in the support of dance majors – The Maria Tallchief Endowed Scholarship and The Marjorie Tallchief Endowed Scholarship.
These scholarships are named in honor of the Tallchief sisters, two members of the Osage Nation who created distinguished careers in the dance world during the 20th century. Their legacies have greatly contributed to dance in the state of Oklahoma and beyond.
The scholarships will be awarded annually to full-time OU School of Dance students maintaining a required grade point average. Priority consideration will be given to those students of American Indian backgrounds and/or students with demonstrated financial need.
“It is entirely appropriate that Maria Tallchief and Marjorie Tallchief are being honored by the School of Dance through the establishment of these scholarships,” said Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts.
“Their influence as artists in the international world of dance cannot be overstated, and, hopefully, these scholarships will continue their already stellar legacy by inspiring and supporting generations of aspiring young dancers.”
The Tallchief sisters are two of the five women known as The Five Moons – five renowned American Indian ballerinas born or raised in Oklahoma who each went on to have remarkable performing careers in the United States and abroad.
The Five Moons, which include the Tallchief sisters, Yvonne Chouteau, Moscylene Larkin, and Rosella Hightower, have been honored in a mural in the rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol by Chickasaw painter Mike Larsen titled Flight of Spirit and in a bronze sculpture installation in Tulsa by Oklahoma artist Gary Henson titled The Five Moons.
Maria Tallchief, considered to be America’s first prima ballerina, danced with the famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in the 1940s. She was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet under the direction of George Balanchine, who created several roles for her, including the title role in his production of The Firebird.
Maria was the first Sugarplum Fairy in the premiere of his production of The Nutcracker in 1954.
Marjorie Tallchief has danced with several world-renowned companies throughout her career, including Ballet Theatre (now known as American Ballet Theatre), the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the Ballet de Marquis de Cuevas, and Harkness Ballet. She was the first Native American dancer to become the première danseuse étoile at the esteemed Paris Opera Ballet.
Tallchief served as the director of dance at the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida, from 1989 to 1993, and was presented with a distinguished service award from OU in 1992. She is the last surviving member of the Five Moons and resides in Boca Raton, Florida.
Both of the Tallchief sisters have been inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame for their contributions to the visual and performing arts in the state of Oklahoma.
“It is absolutely wonderful that the OU School of Dance is celebrating the lives and legacies of Maria and Marjorie Tallchief through these scholarships,” said Warren Queton, tribal liaison for the OU Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“It is vitally important that a pathway is set in motion to encourage young artists from underrepresented backgrounds to follow in the footsteps of these two Osage ballerinas,” Queton added.
Originally founded in 1963 by former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo principal dancers Yvonne Chouteau and Miguel Terekhov, the OU School of Dance is home to one of the leading programs in the nation for training in ballet and modern techniques.
Undergraduate and graduate dance majors, along with general education students, total approximately 1,000 enrollees in dance classes per semester. Classes are held in the School’s state-of-the-art facilities in the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center.
The School of Dance is comprised of two active performing companies, Oklahoma Festival Ballet and Contemporary Dance Oklahoma, both of which execute works from the national repertoire as well as a variety of original works.