18 Maria Tallchief Quotes from Famous American Ballerina

Born in 1925, Maria Tallchief, a Native American from the Osage Nation, moved to New York at 17 to pursue her dream of becoming a ballet dancer.

Despite facing discrimination, she quickly rose through the ranks of Ballet Russe Monte Carlo, later performing leading roles in George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, where she became the first Native American prima ballerina.

Tallchief famously refused to change her last name to avoid discrimination and became the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet in 1947.

After retiring, she co-founded the Chicago City Ballet and became an advocate against injustices faced by Native Americans.

Maria Tallchief Quotes

Known as an international superstar, Tallchief is remembered as one of America’s most successful ballerinas. She passed away in 2013.

Related: Martha Graham Quotes from Famous American Modern Dancer and Misty Copeland Quotes from the American Ballet Dancer

I have compiled the top Maria Tallchief quotes.

Best Maria Tallchief Quotes


Very often you are in the right place, at the right time, but you don’t know it. ~ Maria Tallchief.


I don’t mind being listed alphabetically. I do mind being treated alphabetically. ~ Maria Tallchief.


What’s important is that I’m working with very talented young people. ~ Maria Tallchief.


Dance from your heart and love your music, the audience will love you in return. ~ Maria Tallchief.


Being a ballerina is like being a five-star general. ~ Maria Tallchief.


A ballerina takes steps given to her and makes them her own. Each individual brings something different to the same role. ~ Maria Tallchief.

Above all, I wanted to be a prima ballerina who happened to be Native American, never as someone who was an American Indian Ballerina. ~ Maria Tallchief.

Famous Maria Tallchief Quotes

We didn’t concentrate only for an hour and a half a day on what was being taught. We lived it, and I was beginning to understand just how hard I was going to have to work if I wanted to be a dancer. ~ Maria Tallchief.


To me there’s nothing more glorious than the human voice. ~ Maria Tallchief.

The Nutcracker absolutely was our staple every year. We even took it out to California in the summertime, and danced it at the Greel Theatre with great success! Why not? Christmas in summer. ~ Maria Tallchief.

Top Maria Tallchief Quotes


If anything at all, perfection is not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. ~ Maria Tallchief.

From your first plie you are learning to become an artist. In every sense of the world, you are poetry in motion. ~ Maria Tallchief.

I think it is an innate quality that Indians have to dance. They dance when they are happy, they dance when they are sad. They dance when they get married, they dance when someone dies. ~ Maria Tallchief.

So these were the 18 top Maria Tallchief quotes and sayings.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Sarah Kay quotes and Frances Perkins quotes.

Short Biography of Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief born in Oklahoma in 1925 moved to New York at 17 to fulfill her dream of dancing.

Joining Ballet Russe and later the New York City Ballet she became America’s first prima ballerina and the first Native American to hold this title.

Maria Tallchief

Despite pressure she proudly retained her surname. Tallchief’s iconic roles included the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker.

Full Name Elizabeth Marie Tallchief
Born January 24 1925 Fairfax Oklahoma United States
Died April 11 2013 (age 88 years) Chicago Illinois United States
Occupation Prima ballerina
Dances Sugar Plum Fairy in Balanchine’s Nutcracker and Title character in Balanchine’s Firebird
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Spouse Henry D. Paschen Jr. (m. 1956–2004) Elmourza Natirboff (m. 1952–1954) George Balanchine (m. 1946–1951)
Children Elise Paschen
Siblings Marjorie Tallchief, Jerry Tallchief
Parents Alexander Joseph Tall Chief, Ruth Porter
Books Maria Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina

After retiring she co-founded the Chicago City Ballet and advocated for Native American rights.

She passed away in 2013 leaving a legacy as a trailblazer in ballet and a voice against discrimination.

Quick Facts about Maria Tallchief

  • Elizabeth Marie Tallchief was born on January 24, 1925, in Fairfax, Oklahoma.
  • She was part Osage Nation through her father and had Scottish-Irish heritage from her mother.
  • Maria Tallchief started dance lessons at age three and piano lessons too.
  • The Tallchief family moved to California in 1933 for better dance opportunities.
  • By age 12, Maria was training under Bronislava Nijinska.
  • She joined Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as an apprentice in 1942.
  • Maria chose her stage name over a suggested Russian-sounding alternative to avoid discrimination.
  • Her first solo came in 1943 with Chopin Concerto.
  • Maria met choreographer George Balanchine in 1944, marking the start of a significant collaboration.
  • She originated the role of Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker.”
  • Maria and Balanchine married in August 1946.
  • She was the first American to debut at the Paris Opera Ballet in 1947.
  • Maria became the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet.
  • She preferred to be recognized as a prima ballerina who was also Native American.
  • Maria was a guest performer with the American Ballet Theatre between 1960-1962.
  • She and Balanchine separated in 1951 but continued to collaborate professionally.
  • Maria played leading roles in Balanchine’s ballets like “Swan Lake” and “Firebird.”
  • Her performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” became iconic.
  • Maria was instrumental in popularizing Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” in the U.S.
  • Before Maria, prima ballerinas were typically French or Russian.
  • She danced with the American Ballet Theatre in Russia, making her the first American to perform at the Bolshoi Theater.
  • Maria appeared in the 1952 film “Million Dollar Mermaid.”
  • She married Henry Paschen in 1957 and took a break from ballet in 1959 after having a daughter.
  • Maria retired from dancing in 1965.
  • She served as a ballet teacher and director at the Lyric Opera of Chicago from 1973 to 1979.
  • In 1980, she and her sister founded the Chicago City Ballet.
  • Oklahoma declared June 29, 1953, as Maria Tallchief Day.
  • The Osage Tribe honored her with the name Wa-Xthe-Thomba in 1953.
  • Maria was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
  • She received the National Medal of Arts in 1999 and co-wrote her autobiography, published in 1997.

Top Questions about Maria Tallchief

Q: When and where was Maria Tallchief born?

A: Maria Tallchief was born on January 24, 1925, in Fairfax, Oklahoma.

Q: What was Maria Tallchief’s original birth name?

A: Her original birth name was Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief.

Q: What significant first did Maria Tallchief achieve in the world of ballet?

A: Maria Tallchief was America’s first major prima ballerina and the first Native American to hold this rank.

Q: How old was Maria Tallchief when she started her formal dance lessons?

A: She started formal dance lessons at the age of three.

Q: Why did Maria Tallchief’s family move to Los Angeles when she was eight?

A: Her family moved to Los Angeles to advance the dance careers of Maria and her younger sister, Marjorie.

Q: Which ballet company did Maria Tallchief join at age 17 in New York City?

A: At age 17, she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in New York City.

Q: Who was the choreographer that significantly influenced Tallchief’s career and later became her husband?

A: George Balanchine was the choreographer who significantly influenced her career and later became her husband.

Q: What role catapulted Maria Tallchief to the top of the ballet world?

A: Her role in “The Firebird” in 1949 catapulted her to the top of the ballet world.

Q: Where and when did Maria Tallchief perform that made her the first American to do so?

A: Maria Tallchief became the first American to perform at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, but the exact date is not specified.

Q: After retiring from dance, what significant role did Maria Tallchief take on in Chicago?

A: After retiring, she served as the director of ballet for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and founded the Chicago City Ballet.

Q: What prestigious awards did Maria Tallchief receive recognizing her contributions to the arts?

A: She received a National Medal of Arts and a Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievements.

Q: Who was Maria Tallchief’s father, and what was notable about her paternal great-grandfather?

A: Her father was Alexander Joseph Tall Chief, and her paternal great-grandfather, Peter Bigheart, played a significant role in negotiating oil revenues for the Osage Nation.

Q: At what age did Tallchief perform her first lead role, and which ballet was it in?

A: She performed her first lead role at age 15 in the ballet staged by Nijinska in the Hollywood Bowl, but the specific ballet is not mentioned.

Q: Which iconic roles did Tallchief create under George Balanchine’s direction at the New York City Ballet?

A: She created iconic roles such as the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” and the Swan Queen in Balanchine’s version of “Swan Lake”.

Q: What was the name of Maria Tallchief’s autobiography, and who co-wrote it with her?

A: Her autobiography is titled “Maria Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina,” co-written with Larry Kaplan.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar