Makah Filmmaker Sandy Osawa's new film about Maria Tallchief, comes to PBS in November, check local listings.
'Maria Tallchief' video available from the filmmakers:
America’s First Prima Ballerina
San Francisco, California -- Makah film director Sandy Osawa's new film Maria Tallchief, the story of “America’s First Prima Ballerina” will have its public television debut in November on PBS. This is the first full-length documentary on this legendary dance figure who helped spark the founding of the New York City Ballet Company in 1948. Maria Tallchief began ballet lessons at age four in Fairfax, Oklahoma—an Osage Indian community—and went on to stardom in roles created specifically for her by her husband and choreographer, George Balanchine. In the film Maria Tallchief tells her own story, accompanied by archival photos, rare dance clips, and interviews with dance colleagues and historians.
Osawa, citing her motivation to produce the film, said, “There is a lack of positive stories about Native American women in film and although a television tribute to her is long overdue, I am honored to be the one to introduce Maria Tallchief to both old fans and a new generation of fans.” Maria’s professional life is prominent throughout the film with clips from Swan Lake, Firebird Pas de Dix, , Nutcracker and Le Baiser de la Fee. Audiences will also long remember the more chilling aspects of Maria’s Native American heritage. Shortly after Maria was born in 1925, the Osage Tribe was the richest group of people in the world due to the discovery of oil. This ignited what historians have termed a “reign of terror” as non Indians began plots to rob the Osages of their fortunes.
Murder was rampant and the tribe declined in population by almost 25 percent. Maria’s mother was greatly affected by this period of history and encouraged Maria and her sister to develop their own strengths and skills, as those could never be stolen. At the age of seven, Maria and her family moved to Los Angeles, where she studied with world class teachers such as Mr. Belcher and Madame Nijinsky. By the late 1940’s, television, the New York City Ballet, and even
ballet as an American art form were all emerging. Tallchief became a new prototype of the ballerina that was distinctively American. The ballet world that was dominated by Russian, French and English performers changed dramatically in 1948. The night Maria Tallchief
took center stage in Orpheus, a thunderous ovation was heard and history was made with the founding of the New York City Ballet. Author Francis Mason, who is featured in the film said, “Maria Tallchief lit a fire under classical ballet that is still burning.”
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
The film Maria Tallchief is the third in a trilogy of films that highlights contemporary American Indian themes, issues and people by the production company, Upstream Productions, based in Seattle, Washington. Sandy Osawa is a member of the Makah Tribe with a lifelong dedication
to bringing alternative images of Indians to the screen. Yasu Osawa, has assisted her in all the films and has been lauded for his camera and editing work . The two other previous documentaries were Pepper’s Pow Wow and On & Off the Res ‘ w/ Charlie Hill, which were also
broadcast on PBS stations and are now used as curriculum resources in college libraries across the country.