|If any of the students at Chilocco knew of
what was involved in the development of an entertainment for them they
would never believe or suspected all the ins and outs of the total
workings of that plan. It began as Mari Lou performed for just a few of
the girls in the cramped quarters of their rooms. For years she had
followed the dancing of the very beautiful and talented Maria Tallchief
who was a daughter to an Osage man and a Scots-Irish mother. Mari studied
her moves, copied them, practiced alone, read and studied ballet and
through illustrations she performed alone and for no one. She had no
This was a time of more freedom for the
dancer and George Ballanchine who was married to Maria Tallchief for six
years was using many choreographed programs that picked up on so many
different modern adaptations.
Mari Lou was an untutored, probably clumsy
performer at this time, but she did enjoy creating her own program.
Really, at first she had no vision of performing for anyone. She did it
just for the joy of dancing. However, her crowds were growing in number
and they began to group together in the larger reading room to accommodate
their size. Maybe it was her choice of music the students loved, the
Beethovan's mostly. Probably the music, the size of the group watching her
caused one of the house mother's to open the door to check on them. She
stood watching through the whole performance and although Mari Lou saw her
she never stopped. How could she? The choreography, her own, was in place
and the music kept her to it.
"You are to report to the office." One of
the hall monitors gave her the message the next day.
"Oh boy!" "You are in for it now." Her
roommate gave her a knowing look.
"For what?" Mari Lou tried to appear
unconcerned, but she was, nevertheless, anxious.
When she returned to her room after the
office, visit her room mate was totally curious. "What did she say?"
"Oh nothing!" Came the nonchalant reply
from the coy Mari Lou.
"Look!" "You don't get called into the
office for nothing." Her wise room mate would not be put off.
"Oh well." "If you insist on knowing." And
at this Mari Lou flopped down on the floor, kicking her legs, howling with
"This must be good." Her room mate
exclaimed. "Or else you have lost your mind."
Mari Lou was laughing so hard she couldn't
talk, but when she finally was able to compose herself she said. "They
want me to perform at the next assembly!" "Oh no!" "What have I done?"
"I'm going to make a fool of myself in front of the whole school?" All at
once the reality struck her. "Oh my!" "My toe shoes are so old and beat
up!" "I'll have to get a week-pass to get some more!" "Mother will kill
me." And then in the next breath she said. "I won't ask her." "Uncle will
get them for me."
Mari Lou turned to the poster of Marie
Tallchief performing "Fire Bird" hanging on the back of her door. "You
caused this!" She pointed her finger at the icon who could not have known
in any way shape or form, even the existence of the girl or her problem.
"What are you going to do?" By this time
her room mate was never surprised at any antic.
"I'm going to do it." "Why not." "You saw
how everyone enjoyed my dancing."
So began the short career of a girl who had
never had a formal dance lesson in her life. On looking back there must
have been some courage involved, or insanity maybe. There were problems.
The old stage was hollow and if any jump or heavy movement was made there
was a loud thumping. The performances had to be put forth so as not to
give the floor an opportunity to ruin the ambiance of the music, but she
was careful to see to that.
Once another girl was invited to dance for
an assembly. Mari Lou smiled to herself as the girl's jumps and heavy
moves sounded with a loud bump, thump and clump totally destroying the
mood, and she congratulated herself for her own efforts to avoid this.
Other problems were the costumes, but
somehow for every performance one was forth coming. Once the Home
Economics class made her a lovely red satin costume with a red tutu. She
joked with the teacher, "Well, not close to Maria, but maybe the thought
is there, and if the feeling just partially comes through, that's okay."
The costume for the performance at the
operetta was provided by the school. At this time Mari Lou actually got to
see her choreography, since there were five other girls working with her
on that program, she had to observe it to know if the number was working.
This was probably the greatest moment of joy for the girl just to realize
she had been able to turn out a pleasant, original work. The long pleated
full skirts, peasant blouses and the way the girl's twirled them in a
typical way of the Spanish folk dance were turning out to be just all
right. One of the girl's who danced was of a dark beauty looking to be
Spanish and she particularly was outstanding. Her smiling, yet; aloof
personality gave a dreamy and graceful credibility to the scene, as to
being one of a young Spanish maiden dancing a lovely folk dance.
Years later when George Ballanchine passed
away a memorial program was presented of some of his work. It was shown
late at night. Mari Lou sat up and watched the show alone with a box of
Kleenex at her side.
"I'm forever foolish!" She thought out
loud. Weeping for a man, I didn't even know.
If the muse whispered in her ear, "But we
all knew him!" She determined not to listen.