Ballet Honors Maria Tallchief

Apr 4, 2014

  An original dance performance is making its world premiere on a Stillwater stage this Saturday night in OSU’s Seretean Center.

KOSU’s Chloe Charlton tells us how the show will inspire you, delight your senses, and change your view on Oklahoma’s history.

I’m sitting in a picturesque ballet studio in Stillwater.

I am surrounded by stunningly graceful ballerinas warming up for class in black leotards, pink tights and ballet shoes, and I forget for a moment that I’m in a small town in Oklahoma.

Valerie Hill, the Music Director for Stillwater School of Performing Arts tells us about the School’s upcoming show with passion and excitement.

This brand new ballet revolves around the dynamic life of Maria Tallchief, a native Oklahoman and member of the Osage nation.

“Tell people that this isn’t just you. You’re in a town. You’re in a state that has this lineage of dance going back not only decades in America, but centuries around the world. “

The show is called, “Maria: Oklahoma Prima” and it is making its world premiere, for one-night only, this Saturday, April 5th .

It is sure to prove how Oklahoma has a very important place in the history and future of dance.

Maria Tallchief  began her classical ballet training in Oklahoma, then moved outside of the state to continue her practice and went on to become the America’s first prima ballerina.

Maria was arguably the most famous ballerina in the world from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.

The Stillwater School of Performing Arts will celebrate Tallchief’s life and body of work, as the production takes the audience through some of Tallchief’s defining moments, from the Ballet Russes, to the New York City Ballet, and back to Oklahoma.

“It’s an appreciation of Maria Tallchief, but on a whole different level. It’s an appreciation for the fact that Oklahoma is not contained in and of itself and that we are related to the entire world of dance as a map and as a chronological history of what has happened in dance and specifically ballet for the last 60, 70 years.”

The ballet hopes to educate the audience about the profound effect that Maria Tallchief had on ballet and dance in Oklahoma.

Valerie says their mission is to share the history and joy of dance with the Stillwater community.

“We’re not alone in doing this, and when you come in here not only are you feeding a part of yourself, but you’re becoming a part of this great history that people are doing literally around the world at this very moment.”

This powerful connection caused Shelby Eidson and Cylene Walker, the two Artistic Directors for the Stillwater School of Performing Arts, to create this tribute, an idea that began well over five years ago.

Maria Tallchief died at the age of 88 early this year.

She remained closely tied to her Osage history until her death, speaking out against stereotypes and misconceptions about Native Americans on many occasions.

“I think that’s one of the things that I love about Maria Tallchief, I think that she exemplified was that she could have just been an American Indian ballerina, but she wasn’t. She became the world’s ballerina.”

Tallchief once said, as she was reflecting on her own career, that she was “in the middle of magic, in the presence of genius”

This Saturday’s tribute to Tallchief, at the Seretean Center, hopes to bring some of Maria’s magic back to life, as some Stillwater ballerinas pay tribute to her genius and innovation.

Tickets for “Maria: Oklahoma Prima” are $5 in advance online, and $8 at the door.