© 2021 KOSU
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Google Doodle Pays Homage To Osage Ballerina Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief, one of the most influential ballerinas of all time was featured in a Google Doodle over the weekend.

Born in 1925, Tallchief was a citizen of the Osage Nation hailing from Fairfax, Oklahoma. She worked with legendary choreographer George Balanchine and starred in acclaimed productions such as “The Firebird” (1949), “Swan Lake” (1951) and “The Nutcracker” (1954).

The short, minute and fifteen second clip was created in collaboration with Osage artists Lydia Cheshewalla, Yatika Starr Fields and Chris Pappan. It's divided into three parts representing her most famous performances.

Starr Fields drew the backdrop for Swan Lake and Pappan drew the backdrop for the Firebird section.

Lydia Cheshewalla drew the backdrop for the Nutcracker portion of the Doodle. Tallchief made the ballet famous when she played the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Cheshewalla said her heritage inspired her portion of the Doodle.

"I drew inspiration from traditional Osage designs and artistry such as: ribbon work and hand blankets, sacred items such as eagle feathers, and the draping shapes and whimsy found in the paintings of Kenichi Hoshine," said Cheshewalla.

Maria Tallchief's daughter Elise Paschen also partnered with the Google team to create the short animated piece. Paschen's poem "Swan Queen" was inspired by her mother.

"My mother transformed the world of ballet as America’s first Prima Ballerina," Paschen wrote. "Thanks to her own mother’s vision and determination, she and her sister Marjorie studied and excelled at ballet from an early age. The young girl from Fairfax, Oklahoma lit up the stages around the world with her brilliant artistry. My mother’s discipline and genius allowed her to embody the American dream."

Earlier this year, the University of Oklahoma announced two dance scholarships in honor of Maria and her sister Marjorie. The scholarships will award recipients $40,000.

In 2007, a sculpture titled “The Five Moons” by artist Gary Henson was unveiled at the Tulsa Historical Society.

Tallchief was inducted posthumously into the National Native American Hall of Fame in 2018.


Support this vital local reporting with a donation to KOSU. Click here to give.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
Hey! Did you enjoy this story? We can’t do it without you. We are member-supported, so your donation is critical to KOSU's news reporting and music programming. Help support the reporters, DJs and staff of the station you love.

Here's how:

Related Content