Melissa Hayden has diedBallerina was 83
Posted 09 August 2006 - 05:24 PM
Posted 09 August 2006 - 05:35 PM
Posted 09 August 2006 - 06:53 PM
Melissa not only taught you how to dance, but she taught lessons of how to succeed. Anyone who came from her class knew that one of the most important things a dancer can do is to listen to the choreographer, and give him or her whatever is asked. She would tell us that she didn't care if we fell- just as long as we were doing what she told us to do. This lesson came back to me recently when, teaching a class of rather talented girls, I found myself using her ideas to push them beyond their limits. I wish I could watch her teach again. All of those details of all of those variations she knew- she knew how so many of them should be done- every musical accent, every phrase, every step, position and movement. Well, she was there when many of them were created.
I miss knowing that she is still teaching- still pushing people beyond their limits any way she could. Thank you Ms. Hayden for everything.
Posted 09 August 2006 - 07:11 PM
Here's the NY Times obit:
Posted 09 August 2006 - 07:57 PM
She also had a very distinctive throaty voice that I liked very much, which made her directness and pithyness all the more appealing.
There's much to miss.......
Posted 09 August 2006 - 08:44 PM
There's also a report I did in 2000 on her coaching three Balanchine ballets for the Balanchine Foundation at Dance View - http://www.danceview...ine/Hayden.html
Posted 10 August 2006 - 04:25 AM
About the 1969 filming of Balanchine works:
This kind of dedication from dancers is worth remembering and honoring. Balanchine and his work certainly seem to have inspired more than their share of it.
The dancers worked on these filmings without pay and early in the morning, ...
What a picture! It fits neatly into liebling's memories of Hayden as a teacher.
[Russell] is a true balletmistress with an eye and mind like a steel trap. Like a cryptographer, she can decode an archival video almost in the time it takes her to watch it, and her memory is detailed and organized. Russell proves invaluable at structuring the initial learning process and keeping things moving. Hayden thanks her and says it would have taken twice as long without her. For Hayden, memory is a livelier, more fluid thing, with overlays of events and emotional shadings. They work well together in their disparate styles, and Russell is enough of a lady and good hostess to defer to a guest in her home.
This provides quite an insight into the particular demands of the Balanchine version of classical style -- why it's so difficult to perform well -- and why it's so worth the effort.
Hayden concentrates on the swivel turns, insisting they are done by each dancer one count apart. The problem is the piano accompaniment is almost impossible to count at that moment and the dancers are used to cueing that part visually rather than musically. The process is slow going but even through the inconsistencies, Hayden is working toward specific details and rhythmic style.
I love this interaction between the "idea" and the actual steps needed to bring that idea to fulfillment. This makes it especially sad that we are losing dancers like Melissa Hayden, who were "present at the creation" -- indeed, at the heart of the creation -- and were able to bring a passion for and knowledge of BOTH idea and steps to those whose bothered to ask them.
Balanchine made an astute remark to Claude Bessy about posterity (Ballet Review, Fall 1995), “They will remember the steps but they will forget the idea.” The most notable thing about the Interpreters Archive sessions in Seattle was that they were the reverse; a step or detail may have been different, but the idea behind them remains vibrant.
EDITED TO ADD: Leigh points out that I misread the second quote. The "she" in the original refered to Francia Russell, not to Hayden. I've corrected this above.
Posted 10 August 2006 - 04:54 AM
Posted 10 August 2006 - 05:29 AM
Roles I wish I had seen Hayden dance in include, William Dollar's The Duel, Cullberg's Medea, and Balanchine's The Figure In The Carpet, in which I believe she danced The Princess of Persia. May she rest in peace and light.
Posted 10 August 2006 - 06:00 AM
Posted 10 August 2006 - 06:09 AM
Posted 10 August 2006 - 07:41 AM
I've changed the original post and added an "edited" explanation.
Posted 10 August 2006 - 08:07 AM
Posted 10 August 2006 - 08:12 AM
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.
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.
Posted 10 August 2006 - 09:04 AM
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."
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.
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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