Dance Festival Honors Oklahoma’s Five Moons

Celebrating the legacy of legendary Native American ballerinas
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The University of Oklahoma will be hosting the Five Moons Dance Festival Aug. 27-29 to commemorate renowned Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma. Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau are recognized as the five ballerinas who paved the way for 20th-century dance. 

On opening night, a reception will be held to begin the festivities. On the 28th, educational events and panel discussions will be led by dance scholars at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. To fully immerse yourself in the brilliant history and artistry of dance in Oklahoma, head to the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre to witness an exquisite performance in honor of the Five Moons on the 29th. A wide array of dance organizations will be performing, including the American Ballet Theatre, Tulsa Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Osage Ballet and students from OU’s School of Dance.

To comprehend the impact that these ballerinas had on ballet, it is important to note that four out of the five stars are currently found in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. The Five Moons are said to have served as “the future of the art form by teaching the next generation of dancers,” while founding several other ballet schools as well. The central focus of OU’s Five Moons Dance Festival is to highlight the sisters of 20th-century dance: Maria and Marjorie Tallchief. Both equally influential and from the Osage Nation, the Tallchief sisters and their craft will be highly recognized at the festival. Maria Tallchief is famed for earning the title of America’s first prima ballerina, and Marjorie – the last surviving member of the Five Moons – entered the Paris Opera Ballet and was the first Native American dancer to become a “première danseuse étoile.” 

The purpose of the Five Moons Dance Festival is to educate the people of Oklahoma about the influence of the five dancers, while also “providing a platform for female-identifying choreographers from historically underrepresented populations to present their work, thereby contributing to the future of female leadership in dance.” Warren Queton, former tribal liaison at the OU Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Five Moons Dance Festival planning committee member, highlights how influential the Five Moons are for the craft of 20th-century dance. 

“American Indian people are a dancing people, and always have been,” he said. “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.” 

Tickets for the festival are on sale now. To purchase tickets, visit ou.edu/finearts/universitytheatre or call the OU Fine Arts Box Office at (405) 325-4101. For further information, visit dance.ou.edu/fivemoonsfest.

 

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