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Noted Oklahoma ballerina Maria Tallchief dies at age 88

Maria Tallchief, one of Oklahoma's five Indian ballerinas, died Thursday in Chicago.
BY RICK ROGERS Published: April 13, 2013

Dancers honored

In 1991, Oklahoma's five Indian ballerinas were honored with a mural that was unveiled in the rotunda of the state Capitol. Titled “Flight of Spirit,” the painting depicted the ballerinas along with five graceful geese that symbolized “the five spirits of these wonderful dancers,” artist Mike Larsen said.

“My mother was a ballet legend who was proud of her Osage heritage,” said Tallchief's daughter, Elise Paschen, in a statement. “Her dynamic presence lit up the room. I will miss her passion, commitment to her art and devotion to her family. She raised the bar high and strove for excellence in everything she did.”

After retiring from performing, Tallchief served as director of ballet for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and from 1981 to 1987 was co-artistic director of the Chicago City Ballet. In 1996, Tallchief received a Kennedy Center Honor. Three years later, she was named an Oklahoma Treasure as part of the Governor's Arts Awards. Also that year, Tallchief was honored with a National Medal of Arts by then-president Bill Clinton.

In 1955, while on tour in Chicago, Tallchief met Henry D. “Buzz” Paschen Jr. They married the following June and took a ballet tour of Europe. They were married until his death in 2004.

In addition to her daughter, Elise, Tallchief is survived by her son-in-law, Stuart Brainerd, and two grandchildren, Stephen and Alexandra.

A private family burial is planned with a public memorial service to be announced at a later date.

Contributing: The Chicago Tribune

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