American Indian Ballerinas

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9780806128962: American Indian Ballerinas

This book is the first authorized biography of four twentieth-century American Indian ballerinas: Maria Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Marjorie Tallchief, and Yvonne Chouteau. All raised in Oklahoma during the 1920s and 1930s, these women went on to achieve international fame, each uniquely responsible for changing the image of a ballerina.
Lili Cockerille Livingston, who worked with all four of the ballerinas during her own career as a dancer, draws upon her extensive interviews with the women to bring their stories to life. In their own words, they tell about their childhoods in Oklahoma, their early rises to fame, the ups and downs of their personal lives, the challenges of combining marriage and motherhood with a dancing career, and their recent achievements as mentors and teachers of a younger generation of dancers.
In tracing the diverse careers of the ballerinas, Livingston fills important gaps in the history of ballet. She sheds new light on the development of New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and the now-defunct Harkness Ballet and Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas. In addition, she reveals the harshness of touring for dancers, the effect of World War II on the dance world, and revolutionary changes in choreography and training that took place during the women's performing years.
Livingston also explores the tribal backgrounds of the women, showing how their rich cultural heritage contributed to their development as artists and their unique performing styles. At the same time she provides a fascinating glimpse into the worlds of the Osage, Choctaw, and Cherokee-Shawnee tribes to which the Tallchief sisters, Hightower, and Chouteau respectively belong.

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Review:

American Indian Ballerinas includes authorized mini biographies of ballerinas Rosella Hightower, Yvonne Chouteau, Maria Tallchief (who recently published her autobiography), and her sister Marjorie Tallchief. All four dancers share a common ethnicity (Native American) and state of origin (Oklahoma), and all came to prominence at the roughly the same time, the 1940s-1960s--though the four had markedly different temperaments. Without working too hard to compare them, the book shows how their common heritage of dance and spirituality suffused their respective artistic careers.

About the Author:

Lili Cockerille Livingston, who performed with New York City Ballet and was featured in principal roles with both the Harkness and the Joffrey Ballet, is now an independent dance writer living in Tulsa.

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Livingston, Lili Cockerille
Published by University of Oklahoma Press (1997)
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