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OU School of Dance to launch Five Moons Dance Festival honoring Oklahoma's five 20th century Native American ballerinas

From left, Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau are known as the "Five Moons." They are all Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who achieved fame in the 20th century and left lasting legacies in the arts. [Photo provided]
From left, Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau are known as the "Five Moons." They are all Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who achieved fame in the 20th century and left lasting legacies in the arts. [Photo provided]

NORMAN - The University of Oklahoma School of Dance will present a dance festival honoring five renowned Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma May 30-31 Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center, 560 Parrington Oval. 

The festival will celebrate Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau, each of whom created distinguished careers in the dance world during the 20th century and whose legacies have greatly contributed to dance in the state of Oklahoma.  

The Five Moons Dance Festival aims to inspire interest in the OU, Norman, Oklahoma City, and greater Oklahoma community in learning more about the Five Moons’ remarkable accomplishments, according to a news release. 

The festival will include a series of panel discussions and educational events on May 30, culminating in a dance performance on May 31 in Historic Holmberg Hall in the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center. 

Performers will include OU School of Dance students; professional dancers from Oklahoma City Ballet, Tulsa Ballet and American Ballet Theatre; and dancers from the Native American community. 

The term “Five Moons” is derived from a ballet created by Cherokee composer Louis Ballard Sr. called "The Four Moons" that was performed at the Second Oklahoma Indian Ballerina Festival in 1967. The Oklahoma Indian Ballerina Festivals took place in 1957 and 1967 to celebrate milestone anniversaries of Oklahoma’s statehood. "The Four Moons," which was performed by four of the ballerinas - excluding Maria Tallchief who had retired from performing - and included solos honoring the unique heritage of each dancer.  


Celebrated Native American artist Jerome Tiger created a painting titled "The Four Moons," which was the program cover for the 1967 Oklahoma Indian Ballerinas Festival. The Five Moons have also been honored in a mural in the rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol by Chickasaw painter Mike Larsen titled "Flight of Spirit" and a bronze sculpture installation in Tulsa by Oklahoma artist Gary Henson titled "The Five Moons." 

Four of the Five Moons have been inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

Each of the Five Moons had notable performing careers, all dancing with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as well as other renowned companies in the United States and abroad. In addition to being trailblazers in the world of professional ballet, the Five Moons contributed to the future of the art form by teaching the next generation of dancers and founding or leading several major ballet schools and companies, many of which are still active today.

Moscelyne Larkin, a member of the Shawnee-Peoria tribe, co-founded the Tulsa Ballet with her husband, Roman Jasinski, in 1956. Rosella Hightower, of Choctaw descent, founded the Center for Classical Dance, in Cannes, France, in 1962, and in 1981, she became the first American director of the Paris Opera Ballet. 

Yvonne Chouteau, of Shawnee and Cherokee heritage, established the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Dance, now the OU School of Dance, in 1960 with her husband, Miguel Terekhov. She also founded the Oklahoma City Civic Ballet, now known as Oklahoma City Ballet, in 1963. 

This year’s festival will have a special focus on honoring the Tallchief sisters, Maria and Marjorie, both of the Osage Nation, according to the news release. The Tallchief sisters founded the Chicago City Ballet in 1980. Maria Tallchief is widely considered to be America’s first prima ballerina. Legendary choreographer George Balanchine created several roles for her during her time as a principal dancer at New York City Ballet. 

Marjorie Tallchief was the first Native American dancer to become a première danseuse étoile at the renowned Paris Opera Ballet. She served as the director of dance at the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida, from 1989 to 1993. She was presented with a distinguished service award from the University of Oklahoma in 1992. 

Marjorie is the last surviving member of the Five Moons and resides in Boca Raton. 

The festival planning committee believes an integral component of honoring the Five Moons’ legacy is to provide a platform for female-identifying choreographers from historically underrepresented populations to present their work, thereby contributing to the future of female leadership in dance. This year’s festival will highlight guest choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland, who will present an original work at the festival. 

“A dance festival honoring and celebrating the legacy of the Five Moons ballerinas is long overdue. American Indian people are a dancing people and always have been. Dance is an important part of our identity. It is important to recognize and encourage talent aspiring to follow in the footsteps of the Five Moons and become ballet dancers and choreographers in a field where American Indians are an underrepresented population,” said Warren Queton, tribal liaison at the OU Office of Diversity & Inclusion and Five Moons Dance Festival planning committee member, in a statement. 

 Tickets for the symposium on May 30 will be $10 and will include access to all panel discussions and educational events. Tickets for the Five Moons Dance Festival performance on May 31 will range from $20 to $50. 

All tickets will go on sale on March 2 and may be purchased by visiting www.ou.edu/finearts/universitytheatre or calling the OU Fine Arts Box Office at 325-4101. 

More information about the festival can be found at dance.ou.edu/fivemoonsfest

-BAM 


Related Photos
From left, Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau are known as the "Five Moons." They are all Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who achieved fame in the 20th century and left lasting legacies in the arts. [Photo provided]

From left, Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau are known as the "Five Moons." They are all Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who achieved fame in the 20th century and left lasting legacies in the arts. [Photo provided]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-bb9bf1da79f2284dfd8c4e4d069c980b.jpg" alt="Photo - From left, Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau are known as the "Five Moons." They are all Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who achieved fame in the 20th century and left lasting legacies in the arts. [Photo provided]" title="From left, Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau are known as the "Five Moons." They are all Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who achieved fame in the 20th century and left lasting legacies in the arts. [Photo provided]"><figcaption>From left, Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau are known as the "Five Moons." They are all Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who achieved fame in the 20th century and left lasting legacies in the arts. [Photo provided]</figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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