Ballet legend Maria Tallchief dies at 88

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Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief dances with Rudolf Nureyev in the “Flower Festival”.

Hailed for her “thrilling power of momentum,” Maria Tallchief, was one of the 20th century’s greatest ballerinas, key player in the art of George Balanchine and later a force in the history of Chicago dance.

Tallchief, a longtime Chicagoan, died Thursday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to family members. She was 88. No cause of death was released.

Though not alone, Tallchief helped pioneer what became a late 20th century and ongoing revival in dance here. It’s arguable her work seeking to establish a permanent ballet company in Chicago eventually led to our burgeoning dance scene today as well as the Joffrey Ballet’s relocation here in the 1990s. The Joffrey, in fact, first considered merging with Ballet Chicago, which arose directly in the wake of Tallchief’s troupe.


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