Above all, I wanted to be appreciated as a prima ballerina who happened to be a Native American, never as someone who was an American Indian ballerina
Born in Fairfax, Oklahoma on an Osage Indian reservation, Maria Tallchief (born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief) and her sister, Marjorie, began dancing as children and both would later find themselves dancing on stage. As her career began, many tried to persuade Tallchief to change her last name so that dance companies would not discriminate against her. Tallchief refused. Maria Tallchief’s life was permanently changed in 1948 when she became not only the first prima ballerina of Native American heritage of the New York City Ballet, but the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet. Tallchief’s role as the Sugarplum Fairy is also credited as one of the reasons that The Nutcracker is one of the most famous in the world. She helped break down ethnic barriers in the world of dance and was one of the first American ballet stars in a field long dominated by Russian and European dancers.
About the Quote
Maria Tallchief said that no matter where she performed, she wanted to be judged on the merits of her dancing alone. She believed that one should identify themselves by what they love rather than society’s preconceived notions.
Also, I wanted to include this google doodle which has more information about Tallchief coming from her family and other indigenous artists.