On This Day: Maria Tallchief debuts in New York City Ballet’s “Firebird” as the first-ever American prima ballerina

In a star-making performance, ballerina Maria Tallchief debuts in the New York City Ballet’s production of Firebird on November 27, 1949. During her distinguished career, Tallchief collaborated with famed choreographer George Balanchine and became the first-ever American prima ballerina.

Maria Tallchief was born in 1925 on the Osage Indian reservation in Oklahoma, to a Native American father and Scotch-Irish mother. As a child, she studied with celebrated ballerina Bronslava Nijinska, and moved to New York City at age seventeen to pursue a career in dance. There she met the choreographer George Balanchine, and became a founding member of his New York City Ballet. Tallchief and Balanchine were married from 1946 to 1952.

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