Almost contemporary announcements from both sides of the pond have arrived to honour two ballerinas.
The Maria Tallchief Quarter will be issued next year in the United States and the Carla Fracci stamp is already available in Italy.
The far more important recognition is that for Tallchief – and more elegant frankly, for the graphic of the Italian stamp is truly dreadful – and is the 10th coin in the American Women Quarters Program. Tallchief who is widely considered the first American prima ballerina broke barriers as she was a Native American ballet dancer. Her Osage name, which translates as “Two Standards”, is written in Osage orthography on the coin. The Osage Tribal Council gave Maria Tallchief the name, which was selected by her grandmother: Wa-Xthe-Thoṉba.
The obverse (heads side) of the coin depicts George Washington, originally composed and sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser to mark George Washington’s 200th birthday in 1932, though the then-Treasury Secretary ultimately selected the familiar John Flanagan design.
Tallchief was born on 24 January 1925 in Fairfax, Oklahoma on the Osage reservation beginning dance lessons as a young girl and, at the age of 17, she moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming a ballerina, eventually becoming the muse and wife of George Balanchine. The pair married in 1946, and she remained at the forefront of Balanchine’s works for the New York City Ballet even after their marriage came to an end. Tallchief died on 11 April 2013.
The Fracci stamp is part of a collection of six stamps honouring Italian artists who died between 2021 and 2022, a devasting 12 months for Italy’s cultural life when it lost director Lina Wertmüller, entertainer Raffaella Carrà, singer-songwriter Franco Battiato, the singer Milva, the actress Monica Vitti, and Italy’s favourite dancer Carla Fracci, who is pictured with an image of her in La Sylphide in the background.
Fracci was born on 20 August 1936 and after being rapidly promoted to the top rank at La Scala Theatre Ballet in Milan, also became a permanent guest dancer with American Ballet Theatre as well as appearing regularly with Australian Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, and many other companies. Her ABT film with Erik Bruhn of Giselle from 1969 remains in the catalogue to this day. Bruhn said, she “gave the world a new idea of the ballerina in 19th-century Romantic ballets”. She died on 27 May 2021.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.