Pawhuska dance students to perform Osage ballet at the Five Moons Dance Festival

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PAWHUSKA – Prima ballerinas don’t happen overnight, but at Dance Maker Academy, where the inspiration of the Tallchief sisters runs deep, there is a special place for young dancers to develop and pursue a dream.

Ten of their students, along with a dozen dancers from the Oklahoma City Ballet, will perform scenes from the Osage Ballet at the University of Oklahoma School of Dance’s inaugural Five Moons Dance Festival August 27-29 in Norman.

The festival is held in honor of the five Native American ballerinas of Oklahoma with special emphasis on the famous careers of the two Osage ballerinas – Maria Tallchief and Marjorie Tallchief.

Praised for her iconic role as Firebird, Maria Tallchief is widely regarded as America’s premier ballet dancer with the New York City Ballet. Marjorie Tallchief, the last survivor of the Five Moons, is the first American to become a principal dancer of the Paris Opera Ballet.

Honoring their legacy is important, said Randy Tinker Smith, director of the Osage Ballet and Dance Maker Academy.

“We wouldn’t be here without them,” she said. “We wouldn’t have done a ballet; we wouldn’t have a school – we literally wouldn’t be here right now without them. We are essentially their heritage.

Randy Tinker Smith, director of the Osage Ballet and Dance Maker Academy, left, and his daughter Jenna Smith.

The Osage or Wahzhazhe ballet, first performed in 2012, chronicles the experiences of the Osage people over hundreds of years. Students will perform the opening prayer scene while professional dancers perform “The Notice,” which depicts the many hardships the Osages endured in Kansas.

Tinker Smith wrote the screenplay for the Osage Ballet after taking inspiration from Lou Brock’s musical compilation, “The Journey”. His daughter Jenna Smith did the choreography; Joseph Rivers arranged the music; Osage artist Wendy Ponca and the late Terry Wann designed the dance costumes, and Alexandra Ponca Stock designed and painted the backdrop.

Part of the reason the Smiths started the dance studio was to train Osage dancers for the Osage Ballet after spending six months trying to find native dancers.

“It’s a 10-year commitment just to get started because it takes a long time to raise a ballet dancer and it will take some time before one of the kids can move into professional positions for the Wahzhazhe,” Tinker said. Smith. There are a few young Osage and Cherokee dancers moving up the ranks “if they want to stick with it.” I think this festival will really ignite everyone.

Dancers rehearse at Pawhuska for the Five Moons Dance Festival.

At one point, most of the locals – even the men – took up the ballet because of the Tallchief sisters, Jenna Smith said. This tradition has weakened over the years, but seems to be picking up again. The Smiths now have 80 students at Dance Maker Academy with representation in over 20 tribes. Typically, they perform the Osage Ballet once a year in the summer, as well as a Spring and Nutcracker Show.

A press release from the OU School of Dance said the festival is organized to provide an opportunity for today’s choreographers who identify women from historically under-represented populations to show their work and contribute to the future of female leadership in dance.

Dance Maker Academy students rehearse.

The festival will begin with an opening night on August 27, panel discussions and educational events on August 28 at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, and performances on August 29 at the Elsie C. Brackett Theater. Performances will include the American Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Osage Ballet, and OU School of Dance.

For tickets, go to ou.edu/finearts/universitytheater or any OR Fine Arts box office at 918-325-4101. For more information on the festival, visit dance.ou.edu/fivemoonsfest.


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