Mel Johnson

Melissa Hayden has died

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I'm guessing, but is that Francia Russell behind Hayden? If so - it depends on where she is in the tableau - if she's standing in a demi-soloist spot, the picture is post 1960. If she's in the corps, it's 1958-1960 - and then Barbara Milberg and Barbara Walczak should be in the picture as well.

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Thanks, Leigh, for the correction. The "mind like a steel trap" seemed too close to what one knows of Hayden in the studio that I let myself get careless (having a mind quite the opposite of a steel trap -- pehaps more like a fisherman's net with very large holes?). http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/public/style_emoticons/#EMO_DIR#/blush.gif

I've changed the original post and added an "edited" explanation.

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Hayden did have a mind like a steel trap - but differently than Russell's. When I did the Agon interviews, it was Russell who had the most convincing (who knows if I was wrong, though . . .) recall for events that happened in the room. It relates to her extremely concrete work as a ballet mistress. If you want to know the steps and counts, ask Francia. Hayden had amazing recall, but as it related to what was happening to her (she remembered exactly what she wore the day the Russians from the Bolshoi visited to see Agon - this was 40 years later). Hayden's memory was a performer's memory - the details weren't computer-accurate, but she knew how she wanted something to look, and what effect she wanted it to have.

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Hayden's memory was a performer's memory - the details weren't computer-accurate, but she knew how she wanted something to look, and what effect she wanted it to have.

Thanks for the interview, Leigh. So she knew how things should look. Good grief, what with the contested state of Balanchine ballets at . . . I can't quite remember the name of the company . . . what was she doing teaching in North Carolina? Oh well, I'm sure she did a world of good down there too.

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Hayden did have a mind like a steel trap - but differently than Russell's. When I did the Agon interviews, it was Russell who had the most convincing (who knows if I was wrong, though . . .) recall for events that happened in the room. It relates to her extremely concrete work as a ballet mistress. If you want to know the steps and counts, ask Francia. Hayden had amazing recall, but as it related to what was happening to her (she remembered exactly what she wore the day the Russians from the Bolshoi visited to see Agon - this was 40 years later). Hayden's memory was a performer's memory - the details weren't computer-accurate, but she knew how she wanted something to look, and what effect she wanted it to have.
I think this is a very important point. While Russell danced for several years and was in the original casts of ballets like Agon, she also spent years at Balanchine's side as Ballet Mistress, and her focus in that role was much different than Hayden's as a performer. During one Q&A, Russell said after she had made a correction, Balanchine said something to the effect that "Soon you will be the only one who knows that."

You described in the DVT piece how Russell deferred to Hayden as a host would do to a guest, and it reads as if if Russell did not emphasize her knowledge of Balanchine's intent during that session, but let Hayden take the lead.

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From nycballet.com:

Melissa Hayden Dies August 9, 2006

Melissa Hayden, New York City Ballet principal dancer for more than 20 years, has died at 83.

She was a charter member of City Ballet, joining the troupe shortly after it was founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1948. She retired in September 1973.

“Blunt honesty and generosity in her life and dancing, that was her name,” Jacques d’Amboise, her longtime partner, said.

Kirstein wrote: “Melissa has been the nearest thing to a ‘star’ in our starless company. We have never encouraged stardom on programs, posters or publicity; managers can’t make stars. The public does.”

George Balanchine choreographed over 20 of his ballets on Ms. Hayden, including such masterpieces as Agon, Liebeslieder Walzer, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Stars and Stripes. By the end of her career, she had danced some 60 ballets in the repertory, mainly Balanchine’s plotless works.

Ms. Hayden's loss is deeply mourned by Peter Martins and the dancers, ballet masters, musicians, staff, and Board of Directors of New York City Ballet. We extend our condolences to her family.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Melissa Hayden Scholarship Fund at the School of American Ballet, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza New York, NY 10023, 212-769-6600, c/o Marjorie Vandercook.

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It would be nice if NYCB does something in Hayden's memory, like it did for LeClercq. There are, on next season's schedule, four ballets in which Hayden created leading roles: Agon, Episodes, Liebeslieder and Stars and Stripes.

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I've been very moved by these tributes to Melissa Hayden (and the wonderful photographs--thank you rg), even though I never saw her dance. My parents first met her in 1945, when she was a member of the corps at ABT, and remained friends with her for many years. I was too young to remember "Millie's" visits to our home, but my mother (who is now 95, living in Florida, and a fan of MCB) still remembers Melissa Hayden's wonderful energy, sense of fun, and total dedication to her dancing. When I mentioned to my mother that some of her students said she was tough on them, she said "she was tough on herself! You just knew from the very beginning she was going to be a star, she was so dedicated to her art." My mother still talks about Melissa's performance in Jerry Robbins "Interplay" (there is a wonderful description of this "frisky" ballet in Deborah Jowitt's life of Robbins). After performances, my parents often took Melissa and other members of the corps out to dinner (usually to the Russian Tea Room) followed sometimes by an evening of dancing. My father especially enjoyed dancing with Melissa at the Roosevelt Roof! She was a bright light in the life of my parents. Thank you, Millie.

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You described in the DVT piece how Russell deferred to Hayden as a host would do to a guest, and it reads as if if Russell did not emphasize her knowledge of Balanchine's intent during that session, but let Hayden take the lead.

Absolutely. That was the entire point of the taping - to record Hayden's coaching. Russell was offering her dancers and facilities in service of that. It did get a little weird for her in Agon though - as I wrote in the article there were points during that session when I saw Russell flinch as she counted. But then again, I just looked at my notes from my interview with Russell from the same Agon series in '97. She notes with amusement that during the triple pas de quatre, Diana Adams' group of four and Hayden's group of four would "spit" the counts at each other, each group convinced of the veracity of their counts and it was like "war." kfw - perhaps a metaphor for custodianship of the ballets. Back to Hayden - I'm very glad I got to meet her. She was quite formidable, but quite interesting.

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My mother still talks about Melissa's performance in Jerry Robbins "Interplay"

When I read of her death this morning, my thoughts went back to her early years in Ballet Theatre where I first noticed her in the Corps. One of her first leading roles was, indeed, in 'Interplay' and I heartily agree with your mother---I can still see her in that jazzy finger-snapping silhouette section. During this same time period she was featured on the cover of Life Magazine.

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It is now so many years ago, but I still remember, please correct me if I am wrong.

In Chaplin's movie "Limelight", Claire Bloom played the role of a dancer. Melissa Hayden doubled for Bloom in the dance sequences.

If my memory serves, then I have actually seen Melissa Hayden...

The library surely will have a video, it would be good to watch that again.

May she rest in peace.

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That's absolutely right, and thank you for reminding me that "Six Balanchine Ballerinas" was not the first time I saw Hayden. :blush:

And I just remembered that funny bit in Villella's autobiography where he recounts having to give Hayden a vitamin B shot in the rear. :)

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I grew up watching Melissa Hayden perform because she appeared every year with Jacques D'Amboise in BALLET SPECTACULAR at Dade County Auditorium.

Mr. Joffrey invited Ms. Hayden to teach company class in the late 70s.

I'll never forget her. She walked in with her hair up, wearing a dark blue leotard and skinny, skinny, skinny leg jeans. She looked around at the studio (on the 6th floor at City Center) and said "It hasn't changed a bit." We all laughed and then she took off her skinny, skinny, skinny jeans revealing her mid-calf teaching skirt. I knew I loved her right then and there.

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If anyone is interested, I have a press release from NCSA, where Hayden taught most recently.

Funny that I never knew she was Canadian, as was Pat Wilde (both often cited as 2 of B's characteristically "American" ballerinas!).

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Thanks Ray.

Here it is:

NCSA FACULTY MEMBER, DANCE LEGEND MELISSA HAYDEN DIES

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Prima ballerina and North Carolina School of the Arts faculty member Melissa Hayden, who had a brilliant career as a performer and as a teacher of young dancers, died this morning after a brief illness. She was 83.

“Melissa Hayden's life perfectly mirrors the responsibilities and privileges of great artists,” said North Carolina School of the Arts Chancellor John Mauceri. “She danced an extraordinary 28 years as one of the world's greatest ballerinas. She then taught an equally astonishing 23 years at the North Carolina School of Arts.

“Her legacy as a muse to the incomparable choreographer, George Balanchine, and as the mentor to over 6,000 students speaks to her genius, commitment and passion for the dance and its power to communicate the human spirit. That she continued to teach until a month ago speaks to her indomitable willpower. She is irreplaceable and our School pledges to keep her memory alive and carry on her legacy, because Melissa Hayden deserves no less.”

A native of Toronto, she studied with Boris Volkoff at 15 and by age 20 she was in New York City, dancing in the corps de ballet at the Radio City Music Hall so she could study at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet under Oboukhoff and Vladimiroff.

In 1945 she joined American Ballet Theatre and in less than a year, she was a soloist, performing with the company in the States and abroad for two-and-a-half years. There followed an extended tour of Cuba and South America with Alicia Alonso’s company. In 1949, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein invited her to join their newly formed company, the New York City Ballet. For the next 24 years, except for a two-year return to American Ballet Theatre, Melissa Hayden was a leading ballerina of this world-famous company.

Miss Hayden danced early roles in Balanchine’s “Symphony in C” and “Ivesiana,” and in Jerome Robbins’ “Age of Anxiety,” William Dollar’s “The Duel,” and Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Illuminations.” She created roles in many important new ballets, including “Divertimento No. 15,” “Jeux d’Enfants,” “Agon,” “Stars and Stripes,” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She was particularly acclaimed for her interpretations in “Swan Lake” and “Firebird.”

On her 20th anniversary with the New York City Ballet, New York Times dance critic Clive Barnes wrote, “She has survived and survived, and, more pertinently, she has gotten better and better. New York City Ballet’s Melissa Hayden is its greatest dancer.”

Miss Hayden’s final season with the New York City Ballet in 1973 was a personal and artistic triumph. In her honor, George Balanchine choreographed a farewell ballet, “Cortege Hongrous,” and the company’s Spring Gala in May 1973 was marked by the presentation to her of the Handel Medallion, New York City’s highest cultural award, by Mayor John Lindsay. The inscription read, “The City of New York to Melissa Hayden, extraordinary prima ballerina who has filled the hearts of her audience with joy.”

Following her retirement from the stage, she spent three years as artist-in-residence and director of ballet at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She then created Melissa Hayden Inc., a dance studio in Manhattan where intermediate and advanced students and young professionals from across the country had the chance to study with one of America’s most distinguished ballerinas.

In 1983, Miss Hayden came to the School of Dance at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, where she firmly established her reputation as a master teacher while continuing her active career as a visiting artist throughout the world. She staged nearly 20 works at the School of the Arts, many of them created by the legendary Balanchine: among them, “Allegro Brillante,” “Donizetti Variations,” “Serenade,” “Western Symphony,” “La Sonnambula,” and “Concerto Barocco.” She also traveled with students from the School of the Arts throughout North Carolina, performing in small towns and large cities. Her NCSA students are dancing or have danced in dance companies around the world, including New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Carolina Ballet, Boston Ballet, Miami City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Moscow Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater. She coached several of her NCSA students to awards at international competitions, including Gillian Murphy, now a principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre, who won a Prix de Lausanne Hope Prize and a Princess Grace Award.

Miss Hayden’s outside teaching engagements included the National Ballet of Turkey, Santiago Ballet, the Royal Ballet in London, Boston Ballet, National Ballet of Mexico, and Star Dancers in Tokyo. She was featured on two PBS programs, “Balanchine’s Ballerinas” and “The Life of Balanchine,” and performed on numerous television specials including “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Firestone Hour” and “The Kate Smith Show.” She also appeared in the film LIMELIGHT with Charlie Chaplin. She was a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Lincoln Center, Southern Methodist University and the University of Alberta, among others.

Her work with student dancers led her to write two books published by Doubleday, “Melissa Hayden, Off Stage and On” (1964) and “Ballet Exercises” (1969).

Many honors have been awarded to her including the School of American Ballet Artistic Achievement Award, the Dance Magazine Award, the Mademoiselle Magazine Award, the Dance Educators Award, the Albert Einstein Award, and the O. Max Gardner Award for teaching excellence from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. She held honorary degrees from Skidmore College, Siena College and the University of Western Ontario. She served on the Board of Trustees of Brandeis University.

Melissa Hayden is survived by her husband, Donald Coleman; her son, Stuart Coleman, of Scarsdale, N.Y.; her daughter, Jennifer C. Damsky, of Manhattan; and five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the NCSA Foundation, Inc., for the Melissa Hayden Scholarship Fund, 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem, NC 27127-2188. For gift information, please contact Sarah Turner at turnes@ncarts.edu or 336-770-1371.

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There are two alternative "in lieu of flowers" options for honoring Hayden's memory:

from NYCB:

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Melissa Hayden Scholarship Fund at the School of American Ballet, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza New York, NY 10023, 212-769-6600, c/o Marjorie Vandercook.

from NCSA:

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the NCSA Foundation, Inc., for the Melissa Hayden Scholarship Fund, 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem, NC 27127-2188. For gift information, please contact Sarah Turner at turnes@ncarts.edu or 336-770-1371.

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Thanks Ray.

Here it is:

NCSA FACULTY MEMBER, DANCE LEGEND MELISSA HAYDEN DIES

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Prima ballerina and North Carolina School of the Arts faculty member Melissa Hayden, who had a brilliant career as a performer and as a teacher of young dancers, died this morning after a brief illness. She was 83.

I was moved in hearing the news of the passing of Melissa Hayden. I am grateful that I saw her dance with NYCB and as Lise with the RB. A major contributor to American Ballet and admired around the world.

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Like everyone, I was so sorry to learn of Melissa Hayden's death -- I never had the chance to see her perform live, but did see her coach a few times and was very impressed with her knowledge and her verve.

There was one small omission in the obit from NCSA. After her time at Skidmore, she came to Seattle for a season as Ballet Mistress and director of the school at what was then called Pacific Northwest Dance. At that point the company was still doing the ballet scenes in the opera productions, along with the Lew Christensen Nutcracker -- she helped stage a couple of repertory programs (the only thing I recall off the top of my head is the Liberty Bell duet from Stars and Stripes) I remember she brought several dancers with her from Skidmore, and I think they all left with her at the end of the season when she moved back east to open her studio in NYC. It wasn't a good fit at the time, but it was certainly an interesting year.

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I remember her having a dance studio on Broadway bet. 60& 61st in NYC. Am I right????

I never saw her dance, but I knew enough of her that I knew her death

was a significant one for the ballet world.

For those of us who never saw her dance, can someone suggest a film/video listing for us. Feel free to transfer this request to another thread. Thankyou in advance.

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FIRESTONE DANCES has two (truncated) pas de deux w/ hayden & d'amboise: DON QUIXOTE & balanchine's TCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE DEUX.

neither is filmed under ideal conditions but both show these dancers giving it their all.

Firestone dances, 1962-1963 / produced by Video Artists International in association with New England Conservatory of Music, as part of Voice of Firestone classic performances ; production coordinator, Allan Altman. Fort Lee, N.J. : Video Artists International, c1995, 1962-1963.

including:

Pas de deux [Tchaikovsky pas de deux] (ca. 3 min.) / telecast on December 16, 1962 ; choreography, George Balanchine ; music, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky ; danced by Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise.

Don Quixote: pas de deux (ca. 7 min.) / telecast on March 10, 1963 ; choreography, Jacques d'Amboise after Marius Petipa ; music, L. Minkus ; danced by Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise.

Originally telecast live on the Voice of Firestone series, 1962-1963

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If I recall correctly, her studio was on the top floor of 1845 Broadway (W side of street between 60-61st). The building is still there, but by the time I was studying with Gabriella Darvash ca 1985 (on the third floor - one below) that studio was an annex of Steps and Robert Blankshine taught there.

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Firestone dances, 1962-1963 / produced by Video Artists International in association with New England Conservatory of Music, as part of Voice of Firestone classic performances ; production coordinator, Allan Altman. Fort Lee, N.J. : Video Artists International, c1995, 1962-1963.

including:

Pas de deux [Tchaikovsky pas de deux] (ca. 3 min.) / telecast on December 16, 1962 ; choreography, George Balanchine ; music, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky ; danced by Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise.

Coincidentally(?) the Tchaikovsky pas de deux with Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise is being shown this week on the cable program Classic Arts Showcase. Melissa does 24 fouettes, not the usual 32. Is that part of the choreography?

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In my opinion, a must-have is Dancing for Mr. B, which, unfortunately, is not available on amazon or through the NYCB gift shop. It may be available through libraries, and there is a copy (along with the Makarova ABT Giselle that's being offered through eBay (close date for bidding is Aug-18-06 18:04:48 PDT).

Mine is packed away along with my VCR, and I don't see any evidence that it was ever released on DVD. (Even publisher Nonesuch's site give the barebones title with a picture of the VHS box.) IIRC it included was a clip of Hayden in Stars and Stripes. (Am I having a hallucinatory Senior Moment?)

The documentary gave her a voice, and there was film of her teaching.

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regarding TCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE DEUX and its fouette sequence, this element was a variable over the years, certainly this was true in the last 12 years or so when i was seeing the ballet performed under balanchine's eye - i can't say for certain if they were there for verdy at the 1960 premiere, tho' i assume they were - but along the way balanchine varied the choreography for various dancers - if mem. serves they were not part of the version danced by suzanne farrell.

they represent a rather rare occasion in balanchine's choreography where these 'famous/infamous' moves occur. somehow i suspect balanchine resisted including the iconic 32 fouettes in his own choreography. he's said to have noted that when multiple turns are blatantly presented the audience just ends up counting the revolutions as they tick off. (on the PBS balanchine 2-part bio-docu. there is a montage of various dancers in the pas de deux and the result gives some indication of the variabilities in the dance over the years.)

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Mine is packed away along with my VCR, and I don't see any evidence that it was ever released on DVD.
Sounds like it's time to convert those VHS tapes to DVD. :)

I have the VHS (plus one remaining player), and this discussion has convinced me it's time to look at it again. Mine says it was published by Direct Cinema Limited of Santa Monica, CA.

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