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Public invited to Tallchief memorial Sunday at Francis Parker

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The life and legacy of prima ballerina Maria Tallchief Paschen will be celebrated at 3 p.m. Sunday in a memorial at the Francis W. Parker School auditorium. The ceremony is open to the public.

Ms. Tallchief Paschen, who died April 11 at age 88, was the first star of George Balanchine's New York City Ballet, and helped pioneer a revival of dance in Chicago (her primary residence after marrying husband Henry Paschen in 1956). Her advocacy work eventually prompted the Joffrey Ballet to relocate to Chicago in the 1990s. She was director of ballet for Lyric Opera of Chicago from 1973-79, and in 1980, founded the Chicago City Ballet and acted as co-artistic director until the company closed in 1987.

Among those speaking at the memorial Sunday include Elise Paschen, her daughter and award-winning poet; Jacques d'Amboise, legendary dancer, choreographer and longtime colleague; William Mason, director emeritus of Lyric Opera of Chicago; Kenneth von Heidecke, founder of the Von Heidecke Chicago Festival Ballet; Peter Bensinger Sr., a family friend, and Bill Kurtis, television journalist. George Lepauw, founder of the International Beethoven Project, will offer a music tribute. The program will conclude with a celebratory film tribute by Donna LaPietra.

"My mother was a ballet legend, who was proud of her Osage heritage," said daughter Elise Paschen in a statement. "Her dynamic presence lit up the room. I will miss her passion, commitment to her art and devotion to her family. She raised the bar high and strove for excellence in everything she did."

The Francis Parker auditorium has a 1,000-seat capacity, and admission will be first come, first served.

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