Balanchine, who America adored, loved her Osage legacy, she wrote in her 1997 autobiography. In the 1944 version of his “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”, which contained a “Danse Indienne” pas de deux, however, tense cultural characterizations prevailed. In a performance that has been sharply preserved on 16-millimeter film, Maria dances fast, stylized parallel elevations of her knees, wearing a puffy feather headdress, pompoms and a sash. (Balanchine later completely reworked the ballet, without “Danse Indienne”.) Maria later played important roles in ballets such as “Firebird” and “The Four Temperaments” and became a beacon of American dance.

Marjorie followed her sister into professional ballet, joining the Ballet Theater and then de Basils Original Ballet Russe and the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas in France. In 1956 she was appointed to the Paris Opera Ballet as the first American étoile.

Hightower also made her career primarily in Europe, eventually becoming a leading ballerina with the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas. She was so popular that when she returned to the company in 1957 after completing a tour contract with the ballet theater, the audience applauded for 15 minutes when she performed in “Piège de Lumière”.

These five excellent Native American ballerinas all came from Oklahoma within a decade. As students, they attended some of the same studios and master classes, including in Kansas City and Los Angeles, but in fleeting phases, such as they sometimes performed together in companies during their careers. In several interviews, Chouteau credited her Shawnee-Cherokee heritage as her inspiration for dancing. (As a child, she toured Oklahoma, her family insisted on the authenticity of each of her dances.) Marjorie Tallchief noted the immense impact Ballet Russe had on small towns as it traveled across the country.

Chouteau and Larkin then performed alongside the dancers whom the audience once admired them. Chouteau was a leading ballerina with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which she joined at 14; and Larkin made her career with companies such as de Basils Ballet Russe and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

As professionals, the Five Moon dancers would face challenges, not just because of the constant travel, but also because they needed to find their place in the culture of their companies not only as Oklahomans but also as native women. Since they were from the United States, they were perceived by the public and press as generally informal and on stage with ease. Though internationally respected, Hightower was still referred to as the “little American girl” in a feature in Dance Magazine. Chouteau remembered her fellow dancers encouraging her to pronounce her name in French rather than as she pronounced it in her family. They were American at a time when ballet wasn’t exactly American.