January 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Maria Tallchief

The first American prima ballerina was born in Oklahoma on this day in 1925. Her father, a chief in the Osage Nation, and her Scots-Irish mother, named her Elizabeth Marie Tallchief.

Tallchief claims she was shy and docile as a child, but luckily she wasn't too shy to want to be a performer. According to Wikipedia, a career in the arts was a “challenging dream for a Native American child in those days.” Nevertheless, the family moved to Beverly Hills, California, and Tallchief studied ballet under Madame Nijinska. She premiered at the Hollywood Bowl, and at the young age of 17 she moved to New
York City, where she soon became a featured soloist.

Tallchief married choreographer George Balanchine, and her performances in his ballets, especially The Firebird, made her famous worldwide. Tallchief was also the first Sugarplum Fairy in Balanchine's version of The Nutcracker.

Enjoy this slide show about Maria Tallchief.

Do some dancing!

Here are some activities to get you started.

Watch some ballet...

...Using YouTube..This one is Tallchief herself, this is one bit from The Nutcracker, and this is a more modern take on ballet, from Center Stage.

Of course, there are other kinds of dance, too...

You've got to watch this! It's Gene Kelly tap
dancing on roller skates!

Here are a few classic dances: “Singing in the Rain,” Fred Astaire's famous “ceiling dance,” and a scene from American in Paris.

Check out dances from the hit show So You Think You Can Dance.

Here is a modern dance, and here is a hip hop dance.

Rent a dance movie

Find a list of the “Best Dance Movies” here and “Musicals Kids Can Dance To” here.

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