HAYDEN, MELISSA (1928– ), U.S. ballerina. Hayden's dramatic power and virtuoso technique marked her as one of the outstanding dancers in America. Born Mildred Herman in Toronto, Canada, she trained early to be a dancer and at 17 went to New York, where she attended the School of American Ballet. After dancing in the ballet corps of Radio City Music Hall, she joined Ballet Theater in 1945, became a soloist, and joined the New York City Ballet in 1950, where she was named principal dancer in 1955. During her first season there she danced leading roles in Illuminations, The Duel, and Age of Anxiety. She also created roles in George Balanchine's Agon, Firebird, Midsummer Night's Dream, and other works of the repertoire. In 1963, she danced Swan Lake and Coppélia with the National Ballet of Canada. In her book Melissa Hayden – Offstage and On (1963) she explained her approach to dancing for the benefit of young people. From 1977 to 1983 she directed her own ballet school and from 1983 taught ballet at North Carolina School of the Arts. Hayden was awarded the Handel Medallion, New York's highest award for cultural achievement. She wrote Off Stage and On (1963), Ballet Exercises (1969), and Dancer to Dancer (1981).
Sources:IED, 3, 351–52.
[Marcia B. Siegel /Amnon Shiloah (2nd ed.)]
Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.