mariatallchiefMaria Tallchief, born in Oklahoma in 1925, became one of the country's leading ballerinas prior to founding and serving as the art director of the Chicago City Ballet.

Tallchief danced across the world with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Throughout her career, she broke many records by becoming the New York City Ballet's first prima ballerina and the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet in 1947.

She served as a muse for George Balanchine, one of the greatest ballet choreographers, and pioneered the balletic Americana style of dance with her role in “Rodeo”. She popularized the art form with dazzling, technically precise performances of “Firebird”, “The Nutcracker” and “Orpheus”.

By 1974, Tallchief created the Chicago City Ballet and taught rising stars the works of Balanchine until 1987.

Learn more about Maria Tallchief’s contributions to dance in the 2005 documentary Ballet Russes.

Did You Know? March is Women's History MonthHonoring the achievements and essential roles played by women in American society was the impetus behind the first official celebration of women’s history in 1982. Originally lasting just a week, the National Women’s History Project lobbied Congress to make the event month-long, succeeding in 1987 when the first “Women’s History Month” was celebrated.

International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, similarly highlights the achievements and accomplishments of women across the globe. This year’s theme is “Pledge for Parity,” celebrating women's contributions to social, economic, cultural and political achievements but highlighting the work that still needs to be done to achieve full gender parity.

Learn more:
Women’s History Month
International Women’s Day

Michael PenaMichael Peña was born in Chicago on January 13, 1976. His parents are both originally from Mexico. He attended Hubbard High School in West Lawn. After high school, he got his first acting role after auditioning at an open casting call for To Sir, with Love II.

Peña has appeared in four movies that were nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award: Million Dollar Baby, Crash, Babel and American Hustle. Two of the four won the award.

He was once quoted saying, “I'm just an actor. If it's drama, I add as much humor as the part will stand. And if it's a comedy, add as much drama as you can, so it balances out; you don't wanna be too serious.”

Did You Know? Lovie Smith is University of Illinois’ first African-American head football coachLovie Smith was born on May 8 in Gladewater, Texas and grew up in nearby Big Sandy. He played football in high school and at the University of Tulsa, where he was a two-time All-American at linebacker and safety.

After assistant coaching at a number of colleges, he began his NFL career as a linebacker coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996. Five years later, he moved on to serve as the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, a position which would take him to Super Bowl XXXVI. In 2004, Smith was hired as the head coach for the Chicago Bears. Smith led the Bears to Super Bowl XLI in 2006 and to the NFC Championship Game in 2010.

Learn more:  
Illinois turns the page with hiring of Lovie Smith as football coach – Chicago Tribune

Peoria City HallIllinois may have become a state in 1818. But one town started long before that in Illinois history. The first settlement in Illinois was Fort Crevecoeur in 1680, or modern-day Peoria. The fort would also be one of the first European buildings to be built in the Midwest.

Later the town would receive the name of Peoria after the Native American Peoria Tribe, which was a part of the Illinois Confederation. The town of Peoria, Arizona was named after Peoria, Illinois because the founders of the Arizona suburb of Phoenix wanted to name it after their hometown.

Today, the city of Peoria is the seventh most populist city in the state with a population of over 115,000. The city is home to the world headquarters of Caterpillar. Downtown Peoria was also home to the first Bergner’s Department store, which closed in 1986.

For more information about Peoria: http://www.peoria.org/Home

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