The person I would like to tell about is Myra Yvonne Chouteau, born 7 March 1929, who died of congestive heart failure on 24 January 2016 at the age of 86. She was a famous prima ballerina of a Native and French origin, famous as one of the “Five Moons”, the five prominent Native American ballerinas of Oklahoma. She became a part of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the widely reputed classical ballet company, since she was 14, and a part of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the age of 18 (Lee).
A few years ago I saw a short documentary about her on the internet, accidentally, and was touched by her story and her love for art. Last month, when I heard about her death, I decided to learn more about her. She managed to combine classical moves with her ancestral spirit, and devoted her life not only to building her own dancing career, but also to the dissemination of her passion among other young people, by teaching and mentoring in the University of Oklahoma’s School of Dance (Cruickshank).
A number or sources devoted articles to her upon her death. Among them were such well-known newspapers as The New York Times and The Guardian; naturally, there were also numerous articles and obituaries in the local state resources such as The Oklahoma Daily, The Southwest Times Record, The Tulsa World; in the art-related newsletter Hyperallergic and several other resources.
The memorialization generally involved admiration of her lyrical yet refined dancing, which she developed through years of hard training since she was a child (Price); appreciation of her as a Native American who bore her roots into the world of classical ballet and her being one of the “Five Moons” (Meier); esteem as a teacher and mentor for generations of young ballet dancers, who established a ballet school which is now among the highest ranked ballet schools in the US (Lee); and the reminiscences by the people who were close to her: family, friends and colleagues (The Oklahoma Daily).
However the life of a ballerina is often believed to be full of competition and rivalry, all the articles emphasize the positive aspects of Chouteau’s life, remarking her devotion to ballet, her family, and her state. The article by Hyperallergic, however, gave attention to all the “Five Moons”, overviewing their impact and significance on the American ballet itself (Meier). Thus, some of the articles were more of an informative character while in the other sources memorialization was done through brief obituaries, like in The Tulsa World (McDonnell). It is worth mentioning that Chouteau, along with other “Moons” remains immortalized through the sculptures and murals created during her lifetime.
The memorialization of this talented woman reminds us that, although we are only guests in this world, but our heritage can live longer, whether it is kept by the descendants, like Yvonne Chouteau herself was keeping her Native heritage through her lifetime, or by the memories of loving family, friends, students and all people who could be influenced or impressed by our deeds.
Anderson, Jack. "Yvonne Chouteau, 86, Native American Ballerina of Great Radiance." The New York Times 31 Jan. 2016: 25.
Cruickshank, Judith. "Yvonne Chouteau Obituary." The Guardian. 9 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Lee, Sydney. "Oklahoma Prima Ballerina Yvonne Chouteau Dies At 86." The Times Record. 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
McDonnell, Brandy. "Yvonne Chouteau, Prima Ballerina from Vinita, Dies at 86." The Tulsa World. 27 Jan. 2016. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Meier, Alison. "How Five American Indian Dancers Transformed Ballet in the 20th Century." Hyperallergic. 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
"OU Dance School Founder Yvonne Chouteau Dies at 86." The Oklahoma Daily. 26 Jan. 2016. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Price, Matthew. "Prima Ballerina Yvonne Chouteau, from Vinita, Dies at 86." NewsOK. 26 Jan. 2016. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.