We have officially started taping interviews for the launch of our Podcast!
Over the course of the last few days, we’ve been busily taping multiple interviews for our soon-to-be-launched Podcast.
My VERY FIRST interview was with a renowned Principal Dancer, Tiit Helimets who dances with the San Fransisco Ballet. Going into the interview, I felt nervous, a bit giddy and ultimately so excited that my dream was actually coming to fruition. I have been planning an interview style Ballet Podcast for quite some time. My goal was to interview professionals or those associated with the professional world of Ballet ~ sharing their journey in dance, their remarkable stories and their words of inspiration.
In preparation for the interview, I watched countless videos of this remarkable dancer – which left me feeling star-struck and even more nervous, afraid that my mediocrity and non-danceness would shine through, making me sound like a bumbling idiot.
After all, I had never done a Skype video call before, had zero “radio personality” and was completely unsure what to expect.
What I experienced was an extremely warm, friendly and engaging “real” person. The famous dancer faded away. Instead, a man with a compelling story wound up sitting before me. He told me of his hard work, of his struggles and of his successes. He spoke of what makes him proud (attending college), and what makes his day happy (having dinner with his wife and daughter). He was a relatable person….a friend…so much more than just a dance icon.
Since that first interview, everyone I have had the honor to speak with is equally inspiring, equally engaging and has equal the history, sage advice and truth to their journey. There have been no egos, just hard working professionals who have a passion for what they do ~ and are happy to share their gifts with the world. And most of all, each of these professionals truly care about helping aspiring dancers become their very best by sharing a piece of themselves.
I am left feeling humbled and assured that our intended mission for the Balancing Pointe Blog and Podcast is on the right track:
To inspire and inform aspiring dancers about the complex, yet fascinating world of professional Ballet; while providing education and information about the many possible paths available as they travel toward the realization of their own personal goals and dreams in dance.
The other day as I was going through some my daughter’s school papers, I found an English paper she had written earlier this Fall ~ before she had even learned of our Blog and Podcast.
(We chose to hold off on sharing this information with our daughters until we knew for certain that it was “up and running” and worthy of the scrutiny of a teenager’s eyes. Even still, we were met with skepticism ~ understandable and expected ~ as nothing a mere MOM could embark upon would ever be deemed appropriate)
For the assignment, my daughter had to read a biography and then “interview” the person she studied. Most dancers, when given a reading or writing assignment in school use it as an opportunity to read and learn about an inspiring dancer. Bonus is receiving a grade for learning about something they are already passionate about. This assignment was no exception ~ my daughter chose Maria Tallchief.
She chose Maria not only because she is one of the “greats” in Ballet history, but primarily because Maria had danced under Balanchine. After spending a summer in NYC dancing Balanchine style, she has become focused on learning all she can about the dancers who studied under him.
What struck me most in reading over her paper was that the questions she created and “asked” Maria were very similar to the line of questions we have created for our Podcast interviews. Ironically, it felt as if the “interview” was a written transcription from one of our Podcast episodes.
Because of this and because Maria’s life and legacy aligns perfectly with our mission, I am sharing the fictional “interview” of Maria Tallchief, written from an 8th grader’s perspective, as inspiration and as a preview into the style of Balancing Pointe’s Podcast.
Interview with Maria Tallchief
CF – Q: Ballet is an art. And a beauty, something that appeals and lasts for only some people. To start the interview Maria, tell me how you felt once accomplished, looking back on your fantastic dance career.
Maria Tallchief-A: It was marvelous doing what I loved to do well enough so that I gave people pleasure. But it was lonely, being a ballerina-and terribly demanding, as I knew from the beginning it would be.
CF-Q: I can definitely understand you there. Ballet is very demanding. Take me back to those early years of dedication when you realized what you were committing your life to.
Maria Tallchief-Well I don’t think that there an exact moment when I thought that this was what I was going to do, but I was dedicated and completely in love with ballet from a very young age. I remember when I was twelve, and I began my training with Ernest Belcher. This was when I really began to advance. He had me start over from anything that I had learned previously and go from the basics. This is probably one of the more important times in my early years when my dedication became stronger.
CF-Q: Did you feel at any time that going over these basics felt tedious, or routine?
Maria Tallchief-No I actually loved them and I feel that this is what helped me to improve tremendously. Hah, I even convinced my parents to install a ballet barre in our house.
CF-Q: Wow, the things we do for ballet. So after your early training, how did you begin to progress into your professional career?
Maria Tallchief-Although my mother demanded that I finish high school, and then I was enrolled in UCLA, I ended up moving to New York. And it was hard being away from my family. So I began to look for a position in the Ballet Russe. And while I waited to hear from them I started taking classes at the School of American ballet. Improving my technique greatly.
CF-Q: So did you get the job?
Maria Tallchief-Yes. And then I went on tour.
CF-Q: What was it like being at Ballet Russe?
Maria Tallchief-Those were very difficult years, but it was a wonderful experience. It also provided a turning point in my professional and personal life. I learned a lot of new roles and had exhausting rehearsals. The dancers there were not always nice to me as I was the youngest and they made me feel as if I did not deserve solo parts. But it was all worth it because in 1944 George Balanchine joined Ballet Russe as a choreographer.
CF-Q: What was your impression and relationship with Balanchine when he first came to the Ballet Russe?
Maria Tallchief-Well when he first came, he seemed to really adore me as a dancer and found that I had talent. Between 1944 and 1946 he choreographed six ballets for Ballet Russe. And two of them had world premiere, star roles created for me. These gave me a chance to create characters and show off my talents to full effect.
CF-Q: What was your relationship personally with Balanchine at this time?
Maria Tallchief: During this time we were seeing each other socially, outside of the classroom and rehearsal hall. And by 1946, we were married.
CF-Q: After your contract was up in 1947with Ballet Russe, you moved on to New York City Ballet and worked with your husband, coming out with a great success in your star role in Orpheus. How did your success continue after that?
Maria Tallchief-After this, Stravinsky, Balanchine, and I collaborated during the fall of 1949. The premier of The Firebird had been created. My performance shot me into fame within the dance world, and the ballet provided the company its greatest popular success up to that time. Honestly, I was in a dream. The critics loved me and now the company was drawing in large audiences. I had become internationally famous. I feel that after this, my growth as an artist, because of this performance, assured me a permanent place among the great ballerinas of the century.
CF-Q: So despite all the many other star roles you had had, The Firebird was really the turning point in your career when you felt like you had made it.
Maria Tallchief-Yes, I would definitely agree, although I had many more challenging years ahead of me.
CF-Q: Can you elaborate on these years?
Maria Tallchief-One example of my difficult years was when New York City Ballet went on tour in 1950 to England and the shows were a major disappointment. But more importantly, I tore a ligament and sat out for the whole six weeks of the tour. The company was losing thousands of dollars. It was also at this time that I realized that my marriage with Balanchine was in trouble. Looking back now, I understand that I was just too young to be married to a genius, nearly twice my age. We then separated in 1951.
CF-Q: How did you recover from this difficult period in your life?
Maria Tallchief– Interestingly it was because of another challenge that I found my way to success. I married again and after two years I found myself in a position to choose between my marriage and my career.
CF-Q: Not just your career, your passion as well.
Maria Tallchief– Yes exactly. I ended up choosing my career and continued working with Balanchine in the New York City Ballet. I then went on to perform some of my greatest roles. I also went back to perform with the Ballet Russe and was offered the highest weekly salary ever offered to a ballerina. Although, this ended up being a mistake as I hurt my foot and did not enjoy myself. I returned to NYCB as soon as possible.
CF-Q: This was toward the end of your career. What finally moved you to retire?
Maria Tallchief-Well things in NYCB had changed, and so had I after marrying my third husband Henry Paschen. I never really had any satisfaction with marriage, it was just something I wanted to add to my list of achievements, if you know what I mean.
CF-Q: Well Maria, I think you are a very inspiring person and have made amazing accomplishments as a ballerina. You are very well known as a Native American ballerina, with heritage from the Osage Tribe. Can you explain to me your pride in being a Native American?
Maria Tallchief-Yes, this is true. I am proud of my heritage. The Osage people have a long history in trading, wealth, and traditional rituals. And although I did not grow up in this environment, I will forever remember the stories of my ancestors and it will always be a part of who I am.
CF: I would like to thank you greatly Maria for this interview, I am inspired by you and I have enjoyed this talk.
Maria Tallchief– you are very welcome, I am happy to have talked to you