Maria Tallchief (1925-2013) - prima ballerina | producer

Photo credit: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons



Maria Tallchief was America's first major prima ballerina. Her Osage family name is Ki He Kah Stah Tsa. Starting with formal ballet lessons at age three, she eventually became the New York City Ballet's first star. Tallchief's passionate dancing and athleticism combined with George Balanchine's difficult choreography revolutionized ballet. Her performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy made The Nutcracker wildly popular. Tallchief was the first American to perform in Moscow's Bolshoi Theater. She served as director of ballet for the Lyric Opera of Chicago during the 1970s, and founded the Chicago City Ballet in 1981. Tallchief received a National Medal of Arts and a Kennedy Center Honor and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the National Native American Hall of Fame. 


"From your first plie you are learning to become an artist. In every sense of the word you are poetry in motion." 

"If anything at all, perfection is not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  

"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."      


Tallchief, M. & Kaplan. L. (1997). Maria Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina. 

Day, C. (2021). She Persisted: Maria Tallchief.  (biography for kids) 

Barber, T. (2015). Maria Tallchief (First Nations/Native American Series). 


Women Who Walked on Water

Joy Zimmerman

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Women Who Walked on Water (3:21) – mid-tempo with soulful vocals, rhythmic guitars, and lilting fiddle. A song of tribute to seventeen courageous women who changed the world.

Music & Lyrics by Joy Zimmerman

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