February 27, 2008

One ballerina speaks for five

Tulsa sculptures commemorate Oklahoma's five Indian ballerinasOn Nov. 14, 2007, five bronze sculptures entitled "The Five Moons," created by Oklahoma artist Gary Henson, were unveiled on the west lawn of the Tulsa Historical Society. These statues depict the five ballerinas in their prime: Osage sisters Maria and Marjorie Tallchief; Moscelyne Larkin of the Shawnee and Peoria tribes; Choctaw Nation member Rosella Hightower; and Yvonne Chouteau, who is a Shawnee on the Cherokee Nation rolls.

Chouteau, 78, of Oklahoma City, was the only one able to attend the unveiling. Born and raised in nearby Vinita, Okla., Chouteau has a deep affection for Tulsa, which is where she studied dance with Larkin's mother, who Chouteau called "Madame Eva."
How Chouteau got started:Chouteau's interest in ballet specifically came when she was a young girl, and her parents took her to a ballet performance in Oklahoma City. It was at this performance that she decided that ballet would be her path in life.

"The appeal for young ladies is that it's [ballet] such a feminine, beautiful thing," Chouteau said. "It certainly was when I entered into it. When I joined the Ballet Russe, I was just 14. That was the year 1943. Many years before that, my parents took me to see a ballet performance in Oklahoma City with a famous Ballet Russe company. When I saw the ballet, all the young ladies had beautiful white-tulled skirts on with white satin bodice[s]. On the hair were white flowers and blue wreaths of flowers. I thought, 'Oh, this is so beautiful. This is so wonderful, this gorgeous Chopin music, dancing to it.' I thought this is what I want to do for the rest of my life."

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