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OU School of Dance to host inaugural Five Moons Dance Festival

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The OU School of Dance’s first Five Moons Dance Festival will honor five Native American ballerinas starting Friday.

The Five Moons Dance Festival will focus on the history of Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau, all ballerinas of the 20th century. An opening ceremony, an educational symposium and a performance will feature people connected to the ballerinas.

Leslie Kraus, an assistant professor at the OU School of Dance and the coordinator for the festival, said the idea for the event was first brought up two years ago. In the spring of 2021, it was decided by the festival committee to move forward with the festival for the fall. The festival was originally postponed in April of 2020. 

“You have your dreams of what it becomes,” Kraus said. “But you have to figure out how to get those dreams to happen.”

Kraus said the festival “required some fast movement” after the dates were decided. Throughout the summer, the committee and members of the OU School of Dance worked to put together the event in time for the fall semester.

Maria and Marjorie Tallchief of the Osage Nation will be the partial focus of the festival, Kraus said. Maria Tallchief, who is considered to be America’s first prima ballerina according to a press release, was a principal dancer of the New York City Ballet for 12 years.

Marjorie Tallchief, the “last surviving member of the Five Moons” according to a press release, was the first Native American dancer to become a première danseuse étoile, the most prestigious role of a dancer at the Paris Opera Ballet. She was also awarded with a distinguished service award from OU in 1992.

“Their legacies are being shown on stage,” Kraus said.

Other members of the Five Moons will also be honored at the festival. Hightower of Choctaw descent became the first American director of the Paris Opera Ballet from 1980 to 1983. 

Larkin, another member, co-founded the Tulsa Ballet while being a member of the Shawnee-Peoria tribe.

Chouteau, the founder of OU’s Department of Dance, was also a member of the Five Moons as a woman of Shawnee and Cherokee heritage.

Masks are highly encouraged at all festival events. Some of the performers will be coming from different areas and will be tightly packed backstage, Kraus said, but the coordinators of the event will work to spread the performers out as much as possible. 

“In a time like this, you have to lead with empathy,” Kraus said. “You have to lead with care for all of our fellow humans.”

The event begins with an opening reception at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 27 at the Boyd House followed by a symposium at 10 a.m. at Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art on Saturday, Aug. 28, but both events are sold out as of Wednesday, Aug. 25.

The concert, which has seats available for $10 for students and $25 for adults, will be at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29 at the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre. Tickets are available online until 1 p.m. the day of the concert. 

“With an event like this, we are bringing the past to the future,” Kraus said.

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