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Maria Tallchief: America's Prima…

Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina (edition 1997)

by Maria Tallchief (Author)

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Title:Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina
Authors:Maria Tallchief (Author)
Info:Henry Holt and Co. (1997), Edition: First, 368 pages
Collections:Mack Art

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Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief



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Tallchief is a great autobiography written by a famous prima ballerina named Marie Tallchief. Throughout the book she explains her journey as a dancer and how she became a prima ballerina. The use of metaphors in this story gives us the ability to visualize what it was like for her to learn to play the piano and dance. Hard work and a good foundation were key to her future success as a dancer.
As a reader, we learn the importance focus and determination play in becoming a professional dancer. My favorite part is when she explains how her new Russian ballet teacher told her she was doing everything wrong and that she was as strict as a "drill sergeant in the army". I will never forget the first time I took class with my Georgian ballet teacher, and it was very similar to Tallchiefs experience. I really enjoyed reading about Tallchief and how she became a famous dancer. ( )
  MPennison | Sep 20, 2017 |
"Tallchief; America's Prima Ballerina" is the autobiography of Maria Tallchief beginning at her birth in 1925 and ending at the launch of her professional career. Her father was an Osage Native American, and Maria was born on the Osage Indian Reservation in Oklahoma. Since the people on the reservation had struck oil, she was well off. Her mother's ancestors had come from Scotland and had moved west in a covered wagon. Maria discusses learning ballet and piano while interweaving information about her father's people and their forbidden culture. Native American language and religious celebrations were considered illegal, but the Osage people did not care. In 1933, Maria, her parents, and her sister took the long journey to Los Angeles, staying in cabins and eating bacon, eggs, and hamburgers the entire way. The first thing Maria's mother did in Los Angeles was find the girls a new dance instructor, who had to reteach them everything they had learned wrong. At age 12, Maria had to decide whether to give up piano or dance. She chose to end her piano lessons, since she could experience both music and dance while learning ballet. She learned ballet techniques from a strict teacher, Madame Nilinska, who taught her to feel the composer's emotions in the music and reenact them through dance. After seeing the ballet performance of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, she realized that joining such a group was her dream and it was the life she wanted to live. The story ends with her parents telling her goodbye on the train to New York where she would try out for the ballet group. The language creates a strong suggestion that she was successful in her tryout.
I believe this story is interesting since it chose to examine Maria's childhood and end at her professional career instead of extending throughout her entire life. It discussed the challenges of Americans during the early 1900's, especially Native Americans. It also discusses class, mentioning the Tallchief's oil money and the things it gave them. However, the illustrations in the book are very bland and blurry and could be used to add more to the story. ( )
  charneyuno | Nov 11, 2016 |
a quote; I especially like her third gift:
I chose dance because I felt the music I love grew inside me in a different way than could be expressed by my hands on an instrument. It coursed through my body.
If I chose piano I would have music but not dance. If I chose dance I would have both. In the way that very young people choose, from the heart, I chose, and I chose right.
I had a third gift, just as important as the first two, and that was a mother and father who allowed me to choose.
  raizel | Jul 4, 2014 |
Narrated in the first-person, this picture-book biography sets out the story of ballerina Maria Tallchief's childhood, from her early years on an Osage Indian reservation in Oklahoma - her father was Osage, her mother Scots-Irish - through her family's move west, to an as-yet-undeveloped Los Angeles. The importance of music and dance, in her development, is beautifully and amply explored, as Tallchief, aided by veteran children's author Rosemary Wells, explains how it effected her - how it would "course through her body." Prompted by her father, she chose to concentrate on ballet, rather than try to pursue both ballet and piano, and studied under Madame Nijinska in L.A. The story closes as Tallchief, inspired by the skill and grace of the dancers of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, leaves to study and dance in New York City...

The narrative voice in Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina is strong, giving the reader the feeling that she is really getting a glimpse into Tallchief's heart and mind. I know very little about the history of the Osage people, so I was fascinated to learn how wealthy they were, as a result of the discovery of oil on their lands. This contrasted so sharply with the cultural oppression they experienced, as their traditional dancing and ceremonies were banned. I was also fascinated by the progression of Tallchief's studies, as she went from a small-town dance instructor who wasn't very good, to a world-class teacher like Nijinska. What a difference that must have been! Although I think I would have preferred the story to continue, and follow Tallchief as she became a ballerina, I liked what was there, and was particularly moved by her emotionally rich descriptions of what music and dance meant to her.

All in all, an engaging biography of one of America's most celebrated ballet dancers, one I recommend to all young readers who are themselves dancers, who are interested in the arts, or who just appreciate a good biography! ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Apr 11, 2013 |
This was a very short semi autobiography on Maria Tallchief. Rosemary Wells wrote this along with the ballerina. The two writers make the story of Tallchief's early life on a reservation come alive. Many young readers will find it bizarre that Tallchief as different from her peers because she danced.

My main issue with the book was that it ended too abruptly. I really would have loved to hear about her early times in the ballet company and what it was like to be a prima ballerina. However, the pair end the story as she boards a bus to New York to try out for a ballet company. I will look elsewhere for the rest of the story, but I wish I didn't have to. ( )
  Kathdavis54 | Nov 7, 2011 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tallchief, Mariaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kaplan, LarryAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Wells, Rosemarymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Kelley, GaryIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142300187, Paperback)

Growing up on the Osage Indian reservation, Maria Tallchief was a gifted pianist and dancer. According to Osage tradition, women are not permitted to dance, but Maria's parents recognized her gifts and allowed her to break the rule. Then when Maria reached the age of twelve, her father told her it was time to choose between her two loves. Maria chose ballet. It was a decision that would change not only the course of her life, but the face of classical ballet in America. The fascinating story of Maria Tallchief's rise to become America's prima ballerina will captivate young readers.

"Tallchief's single-minded passion, conveyed in a clear, poetic narrative, will hold appeal and meaning for an audience beyond that of hopeful ballerinas." (The Horn Book)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:03 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Ballerina Maria Tallchief describes her childhood on an Osage reservation, the development of her love of dance, and her rise to success in that field.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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