Marjorie Tallchief, an American ballerina who became an acclaimed international star with major companies in France and the United States in the 1950s, died on Nov. 30 at her home in Delray Beach, Fla. She was 95.
Her death was confirmed by her granddaughter Nathalie Skibine.
Ms. Tallchief was often identified by critics and reference books as the younger sister of Maria Tallchief, one of George Balanchine’s leading ballerinas in New York City Ballet. But she had her own distinct identity as a versatile dancer who excelled in diverse ballets, from the 19th-century classics and Balanchine’s works to the experimental dances with a poetic tinge that were fashionable in France, where she danced with two companies in the 1940s and 1950s.
From 1957 to 1962, she danced with the Paris Opera Ballet, which invited her to join as a regular principal when her husband, George Skibine, joined as ballet director and choreographer.
Although the Tallchief sisters pursued independent careers in separate companies, they remained close, and they both publicly proclaimed pride in their Native American heritage as members of the Osage Nation. The State of Oklahoma honored them with several official tributes over the years.
Although Maria was more familiar to American audiences because of her connection to New York City Ballet, Marjorie danced early in her career with Ballet Theater (which later became American Ballet Theater) and regularly appeared in New York for a decade, from 1947 to 1956, with the visiting Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas from France and Monaco.
The French critic Irène Lidova summed her up in a 1950 appraisal as “a brilliant, dynamic dancer with a svelte and flexible body,” adding, “Through her quasi-acrobatic virtuosity, she embodies the perfect dancer for our time.”
The New York Times dance critic John Martin also noted that streamlined quality when the Cuevas company revived Bronislava Nijinska’s famous avant-garde ballet, “Le Train Bleu,” that year. Singling out Ms. Tallchief’s performance as an androgynous young woman in blue, he wrote, “She makes the girl in the tunic a stunning figure,” adding that she also maintained “the sharp, clean style of the choreography’s design.”
In later years, Ms. Tallchief appeared as a guest ballerina with Ruth Page’s Chicago Opera Ballet and the Harkness Ballet.
Marjorie Louise Tall Chief was born on Oct. 19, 1926, 21 months after her sister, in Denver, where her parents were on a brief vacation. (She and her sister joined their surnames when they began dancing professionally.)
Their father, Alexander Joseph Tall Chief, a member of the Osage Nation, lived off his share of the oil revenues that had been negotiated with the federal government after oil was discovered on the Osage reservation in Fairfax, Okla. Their mother, Ruth (Porter) Tall Chief, a homemaker of Scottish-Irish descent, encouraged the girls to study ballet and moved the family to Beverly Hills, Calif., in search of more professional ballet teachers.
Thanks to their oil revenue wealth, the family lived an affluent life. The girls studied ballet with two well-known teachers: Ernest Belcher; and David Lichine, the choreographer and dancer married to one of Balanchine’s original “baby ballerinas,” Tatiana Riabouchinska. Their greatest teacher was Ms. Nijinska, Vaslav Nijinsky’s sister and herself a celebrated choreographer and dancer in Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.
As the critic Jack Anderson recalled recently, Ms. Nijinska told him in California that she advised the sisters never to dance in the same company “because each would cancel the other out.”
Maria Tallchief died in 2013. Majorie Tallchief is survived by her sons, Alexander and George Skibine, and four grandchildren.