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Five Moons: world of the ballerinas from Oklahoma

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Geni Special Collections pilot project

The Five Moons are five Native American ballerinas from the U.S. state of Oklahoma who achieved international prominence during the 20th century. They are Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin, and sisters Maria Tallchief and Marjorie Tallchief. "Their remarkable accomplishments showcased American dance and talent to the world when Russian stars still dominated that scene." [1]

project goals

This project fills out the family trees of the five dancers, and identifies people who shaped their lives, or were inspired by them, including:

  • their earliest known ancestors
  • any common relatives
  • any "notable kin"
  • other notable associates (e.g., their mentors)
  • artists who created tributes
  • potential project partner resources

the ballet

The ballerinas inspired other forms of art. A ballet entitled The Four Moons was created for the Oklahoma Indian Ballerina Festival in 1967. The ballet, set to music by the Oklahoma native Louis Ballard, a Quapaw-Cherokee composer, consists of four solos that evoke each dancer’s tribal heritage. [3] The Osage solo is dedicated to both Tallchief sisters, thus explaining The Four Moons title, as opposed to five.

the mural

Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen painted a mural depicting the Five Moons, entitled Flight of Spirit. The mural hangs in the Oklahoma State Capitol Rotunda in Oklahoma City.

the sculpture


The Five Moons sculpture was unveiled at the Tulsa Historical Society in November 2007. The sculptures present each of the women in a costume and pose representative of one of their signature roles. The project was begun in 1995 by artist Monte England. England, inspired by Mike Larsen's mural, desired to create a tribute in bronze to the ballerinas in his hometown of Tulsa. Sponsorship of the project was provided by Tulsa Historical Society and the Tulsa Ballet, whose representative monitored the project to help England ensure that details such as hand position and dress were accurate. In 2005, however, England died, having completed only two of the full-sized sculptures. England's long-time friend and fellow sculptor Gary Henson was asked to complete the project. Henson was provided license by the Ballet and Historical Society to complete the remaining sculptures in his own style, which differed slightly from that of England.

project instructions

  • Please add profiles to project of the dancers, their spouses, and "also" profiles listed in the "project goals" section
  • Please ensure profiles have genealogical source data cited and / or attached as documents
  • Please add links to the "resources" section, compiling these resources are invaluable for further research & for archiving purposes

profile index

The ballerinas (Listed alphabetically)

  • Yvonne Chouteau (1929-2016), grew up in Vinita, Oklahoma and is a member of the Shawnee and Cherokee Tribe. At age 14, she became the youngest dancer to be accepted by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She and her husband Miguel Terekhov founded the Oklahoma City Civic Ballet, now known as Oklahoma City Ballet.
  • Rosella Hightower (1920-2008), a Choctaw, was born in Durwood, Oklahoma. She studied ballet in Kansas City, Kansas and New York. Hightower first danced for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and several other companies. She founded the Center for Classical Dance in Cannes, France and was the director of the Marseilles Opera Ballet, the Ballet de Nancy, and the Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris. In 1975, she garnered France's premier honor, the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur.
  • Moscelyne Larkin (1925-2012) was born in Miami, Oklahoma. She is of Peoria, Shawnee, and Russian heritage. Her mother personally trained her in ballet until she moved to New York to continue her studies. Larkin joined the Original Ballet Russe at age 15, and later danced for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband Roman Jansinsky, where they founded the Tulsa Ballet Theatre.
  • Maria Tallchief (1925-2013) was Osage and was born in Fairfax, Oklahoma. Her family moved to Los Angeles, California to give her and her sister the best ballet training. She joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and later the New York City Ballet. She married its director and choreographer George Balanchine, who created ballets for her.
  • Marjorie Tallchief (born 1926) is Maria's sister and is also Osage. She grew up in Fairfax, Oklahoma. She became the first Native American premiere danseuse étoile in the Paris Opéra. Tallchief danced in a number of ballet companies and was director of dance at the school of the Dallas Civic Ballet (later renamed the Dallas Ballet) Dallas; the City Ballet of Chicago; and the Harid Conservatory of Boca Raton, Florida.

Their world (Listed chronologically; please include the relationship to a ballerina)


Historic events, listed chronologically


  • 1. Obituaries: Prominent Ballet Dancer Rosella Hightower By Nora Boustany Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, November 8, 2008
  • 2. The Five Moons are a gift of Charles and Peggy Stephenson and Billie and Howard Barnett.
  • 3. DANCE: TULSA SALUTES FIVE INDIAN BALLERINAS By JENNIFER DUNNING, Special to the New York Times Published: November 15, 1982. The Shawnee solo, created for Miss Larkin by Mr. Jasinski, her husband, was all quick turns and little jumps. Choreographed by Miss Hightower for herself, the Choctaw solo was full of small, almost flirtatious detail. The Osage solo, created for Marjorie Tallchief by her husband, George Skibine, was slower and more dignified, a sustained flow of big arabesques, extensions, poses on point and steely turns. And the Cherokee solo for Miss Chouteau, choreographed by her husband, Miguel Terekhov, brought a note of reflective sadness to the pas de quatre, with lyrical arms, little, running jumps and a fluttering of the hands that suggested the blinking out of tears."

this project is in HistoryLink 


Page contact: Erica Howton