Maria Tallchief, a 20th century ballet legend and the first American prima ballerina, has died. George Balanchine, who was her husband for six years, created many roles for her including leads in Firebird and Allegro Brillante.
Tallchief was my first ballet role model as a little girl. I feel very lucky to have met and studied with her as a teenager at The Jillana School, a summer ballet program founded and directed by former New York City Ballet principal dancer Jillana. Tallchief’s classes were rigorous, to say the least. I admired her passion and dedication to teaching perfect alignment, turn out, and expression, along with her commitment to revealing “the soul of the dancer”, as she always said. Tallchief was an extraordinary dancer and person. She will be missed.