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Ballet

The Indomitable Jewish Ballerina Who Inspired a Timeless Love Song

In 1944, at the height of the worst carnage the world has known, a mother in Budapest, Hungary, put her only son, then seven years old, out on the street with a pillow, a last morsel of bread, and the boy’s baptismal certificate. The mother was Jewish, the son Catholic.

Fifty years later the son, Cesare Frustaci—by that time an American citizen with a family of his own—contributed a video-taped oral history to Yale University and then sent the tape to author Germaine Shames. It told the story of his mother, ballerina Margit Wolf, who was banished from the stage by Mussolini only to inspire a timeless love song and then fade from history without a trace.

Katya Delakova

Katya Delakova was a pioneer of Jewish dance, blending folk traditions, Hasidic worship, modern dance, and improvisation.

Melissa Hayden

Melissa Hayden showed unparalleled versatility and range in her ballet dancing, prompting choreographers to create roles specifically for her during a career that spanned decades at the top of her profession.

Goldie Hawn

As an actress, Goldie Hawn became known for playing dumb blondes, but behind the camera, she was determined to fulfill her vision as an executive producer and director.

Selma Jeanne Cohen

Selma Jeanne Cohen transformed the field of dance by giving critics and historians the language to discuss the nuances of performance and choreography.

Shirley Silver Selis

Known as “Fuzzy” to her friends and family, Shirley Selis was born in 1917 in Baltimore and developed a lifelong passion for dance in childhood.

Ilona Copen, 1940 - 2010

Co-founder and director of the New York International Ballet Competition, Ilona Copen died in February. Through her passion for educating young dancers and the advancement of the arts, she left an indelible imprint on the dance world.

Dancer Nora Kaye performs the role of Hagar in "Pillar of Fire"

April 8, 1942

Nora Kaye's performance as Hagar, in the world premiere of "Pillar of Fire" at the Ballet Theatre, established her as one of the world's prima ballerinas.

Melissa Hayden premieres role of Titania in Balanchine ballet

January 17, 1962

Dancer Melissa Hayden premiered the role of Titania in Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a part created especially for her.

Melissa Hayden

Melissa Hayden was born Mildred Herman, April 23, 1923, in Toronto, Canada. Neither of her parents, Kate Weinberg and Jacob Herman, who had immigrated from the region surrounding Kiev in Russia, had any artistic talents. Her father operated a successful wholesale fruit and vegetable business. Her sister Leola was eight years her senior; her sister Annette was three years younger. Hayden started her ballet training fairly late, at age fifteen, with Boris Volkoff, an influential Toronto teacher. After five years of study with Volkoff, for which, when she was out of high school, she paid by working as a bookkeeper, she decided it was necessary to continue her training in New York.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ballet." (Viewed on August 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/tags/ballet>.

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