Ballerinas are some of the most impressive athletes out there. The way they dance and move on stage requires so much discipline and talent.
There have been some legendary ballet dancers to grace stages worldwide, but did you know that the first major ‘prima ballerina’ in the United States was a woman of Native American descent?
Maria Tallchief was an icon in the dance world and paved the way for other diverse dancers in the industry. Maria was born in 1925 in Fairfax, Oklahoma. She grew up on the Osage reservation with her family.
Her mother had once dreamed of becoming a performer but couldn’t pursue her passions due to financial troubles. So, she was determined to ensure Maria and her siblings could perform and explore their creative paths.
When Maria was young, her family moved to Los Angeles, California, so that she could perform with her siblings in Hollywood.
There, she took a variety of dance classes and eventually was accepted into the famous ballerina Bronislava Nijinska’s studio. When she was around 12-years-old, she set her sights on becoming a ballerina.
Maria began working as a professional dancer after she graduated high school. She had small dancing roles in a few films in California but ultimately decided to move to New York City in 1942.
Maria worked tirelessly in the Big Apple to find work in dance companies. She faced much discrimination for her Native American heritage and dealt with rejection.
Finally, she became an apprentice at Serge Denham’s company after they realized they could use her because she had a passport and could travel outside the United States.