“Exciting, Energetic, Inspiring, Legendary, Ballerina TallChief Sisters”
These two Native American women paved the way during a time in America’s most trying years of prejudice against women.
Elizabeth Marie (Maria) TallChief, born January 24, 1925, in Fairfax, Oklahoma, was a daughter to Alexander Joseph Tall Chief and Ruth (nee Porter). She was the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet, the Ballet Russe, and the Balanchine Ballet Society, later renamed the New York City Ballet. Maria made the New York City Ballet famous by dancing George Balanchine’s famous “Firebird,” becoming America’s first Prima Ballerina. Maria married Balanchine but it was later annulled. She married 2nd a pilot, then later her true love Henry D. “Buzz” Paschen. Their only child was Elise Maria born in 1959. Buzz died when Elise was 5, and Maria raised their daughter alone.
Maria received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center, the National Medal of Arts, and she was named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She will be inducted into the National Native American Hall of Fame this October 2018.
Marjorie Louise TallChief was born October 19, 1926, in Denver, Colorado. Marjorie was also a ballerina, and though she was Maria’s little sister, the two sisters were always best friends. As children, when anything was going on in Fairfax, the “Tallchief sisters” were always asked to dance. They advanced far from their Oklahoma roots, but they never forgot their childhood. Both sisters danced in the most beautiful theaters in the world and with the most famous ballerinas. Marjorie’s career in ballet took her to Paris where she spent much time in the theaters of Europe, where she was both performer and teacher. In their later years, the two sisters devoted their energies to develop the Chicago’s City Ballet in America, and their influence is still felt today in the dance world.
Marjorie was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and she performed for US Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. She also performed for foreign dignitary Charles De Gaulle. The two sisters are members of the famous Five Indian Ballerinas of Oklahoma, and they were honored by Oklahomans as “Oklahoma’s Treasures.”