cover image Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief. Henry Holt & Company, $30 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-3302-1

Tallchief, whose father was a hard-drinking, oil-rich Osage chief, was born on an Oklahoma reservation. But when Tallchief was eight and had already outgrown the limited ballet instruction available in Oklahoma, her strong-willed, Scotch-Irish mother moved the family to Los Angeles, where the girl studied with Ernest Belcher and Bronislava Nijinska. At age 17, Tallchief joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and there met choreographer George Balanchine, whom she married in 1946. The marriage dissolved a few years later, but she remained devoted to Balanchine and, until her retirement in 1966, was a leading ballerina in his New York City Ballet. In this lackluster autobiography, Tallchief records all the details of her background and training and traces her career, her three marriages and her relationships with her dance partners, especially Andre Eglevsky and Erik Bruhn. Her accounts of the evolutions of the ballets in which she starred and of Balanchine's working methods will be of interest to balletomanes, but the book, written with Kaplan, who has also coauthored biographies of Merrill Ashley and Edward Villela, lacks the fire and excitement that characterized the dancing of one of the great ballerinas of this century. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)