Gisela Pahlke- Ballerina Delux
In 1946 just after World War 2 my Grandfather Pahlke brought over (from then Germany) family members who settled in Wisconsin, including cousins and uncles. He also brought over the first child refugee to Oklahoma City from a burned out and destroyed city (bombing by the Allies), a little five year old girl that lost her parents in the firestorm that ensued. She was in fact part Russian as well as German (as of my Grandfather). The little girl was flown to her new home in Central Oklahoma where she departed the plane, down the stairs of the TWA flight at Will Rogers Airport. The Oklahoma Times (evening Daily Oklahoman) took her picture and ran the story and put the photo on the front page of the next evenings newspaper.
The little dark haired girl’s life was documented (by the Oklahoman) through her childhood and as an adult. On many of her first Oklahoma birthdays the stories talked about her intelligence and how she learned English within one year and how she became one of the best students at Gatewood Elementary as a child from kindergarden on. Her last story published was when she was in the newspaper in a unique story about her and her husband and two Russian ice skating dancers that held the same name as she and her husband, Terry and Gisela.
As she matured from a child to a young adult my Grandfather and Grandmother gave her the complete American upbringing. Grandparents William and Sophia, long with my Aunts Erma and Dorothy, taught her the lessons of life and how to become a competent young woman in time. Always dressed with the best clothes she had the advantages of having experiences to give her an education beyond what the public schools could give her. With her positiveness, she was extremely popular with others of her age grew as she grew up in an Oklahoma family.
She found out that dance, especially ballet, was a gift from God, as she was instructed in various forms of the artistry in her elementary years. By age 15 she was one of the top young ballerinas, not only in Oklahoma, but in the nation.
At graduation from Classen High School (1501 Ellison, OKC) in 1961, Maria Tallchief. the “prima ballerina” from Oklahoma awarded her a full ride to study at her school of ballet in New York City. At that time, 1961, everyone associated with dance in the Southwest part of the country knew Gisela was capable of becoming a noted name in ballet in time.
A tough decision was made and she followed her heart, wanting to start a family. She had already picked out the man in her life and her high school sweetheart would win out in a decision of family over fame. She did not go to NYC but stayed in OKC and married her man, Terry Head, and raised the all-American family. My Aunt passed a few years ago from cancer. She was in fact our family’s first world class dancer/athlete.
Picture above: Gisela Pahlke, 2049 NW 20, left, and Gail Groseclose, 1915 NW 38, rehearse with youthful stage veteran Bennie Benson for their debuts Saturday night in the first annual stage production of the Oklahoma Academy of Dance. Circa 1955