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Ballerina Maria Tallchief dies
Maria Tallchief stands next to a picture of her Great Grandfather, Big Heart. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times
Maria Tallchief, a longtime resident of Chicago, died Thursday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She was 88.
Her father was a chief of the Osage Nation, her mother was Scots-Irish, and she was born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief would go on to become Maria Tallchief — one of the great American ballerinas — renowned for her performances in Fokine’s “The Firebird,” as well as in such other feathery classics as “Swan Lake” and “The Black Swan.”
Initially a dancer with the fabled Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, she became the first prima ballerina of the newly established New York City Ballet, dancing with that company from 1947 to 1960. Married to the company’s director, choreographer George Balanchine, from 1946 to 1952, she created the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in his version of “The Nutcracker.” And in 1962, in the wake of his defection from the Soviet Union, Rudolf Nureyev chose her as his partner for his American television debut. –Hedy Weiss