#TBT: Maria Tallchief and Rudolf Nureyev dancing Flower Festival in Genzano (1962)

November 28, 2001

There are “firsts” for everything in ballet—from positions of the feet to world premieres of new choreography. But some dancers might not recognize the woman considered to be the first American prima ballerina (and in ballet, holding such a title is comparable to some sort of divinity). But Maria Tallchief, who danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and was one of Balanchine’s first principal dancers at New York City Ballet, takes this place in history.

Tallchief’s death in 2013 was a loss felt by all who recognized her importance. This clip of the pas de deux from Flower Festival in Genzano (choreographed by Erik Bruhn after Bournonville) captures the power she held as a performer. The choreography incorporates a simple format of springtime and love that makes room for Tallchief’s own joyful interpretation both alone and with her partner, Rudolf Nureyev.

Watch to see the excitement between Tallchief and Nureyev boomerang and flourish once the Coda begins—especially during Tallchief’s entrance at 7:40. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!