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Chilocco School Short Stories
Chilocco's Dance


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 teacher.

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 laughter.

"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.


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