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. Hayden began her training late, at age fifteen, paying for lessons by working as a bookkeeper before moving to New York, where she found a job with the Radio Music Ballet Company. She joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1945, touring with the company for almost three years before joining the newly formed New York City Ballet in 1948, where she remained until her retirement in 1973. Chief choreographer George Balanchine selected her for special, intensive training in technique with a small group of core dancers and began choreographing key roles for her that could show off her stark precision in one performance and her mercurial delicacy in another. Hayden rose to every challenge, both dancing alone and with her preferred partner, Jacques D’Amboise, and when she retired, she was honored with the Handel Medallion, New York’s highest cultural award. She went on to teach at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem for twenty years.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Melissa Hayden." (Viewed on January 22, 2017) <https://jwa.org/people/hayden-melissa>.