Melissa Hayden To Tape Video Series For The George Balanchine Foundation
New York City--Melissa Hayden, outstanding classical and dramatic ballerina with the New York City Ballet for many years, will teach and coach roles Balanchine created for her for the cameras of The George Balanchine Foundation's Interpreters Archives. Taping will commence November 16 and 17, with a second shoot scheduled for November 22 and 23, at City Center Studio #5, 130 West 56th Street, New York City.
Ms. Hayden will work with Gillian Murphy, a soloist with American Ballet Theatre, who was her student. Ms. Murphy will be joined by New York City Ballet principal dancers Charles Askegard (Stars and Stripes) and Peter Boal (Donizetti Variations). Balanchine scholar and director of research for the Foundation Nancy Reynolds will oversee the project and interview Ms. Hayden. Ms. Reynolds danced with the New York City Ballet at the time both ballets were created.
She initiated the video archives program in 1994 and has directed the production of more than twenty projects with many of Balanchine's leading dancers. Master tapes of the archives are housed at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and copies may now be viewed in some 35 research libraries around the world.
"I'm looking forward to being reminded at close hand of Melissa's steely footwork and mastery of intricate technical challenges, which she was somehow able--almost incongruously--to combine with a sense of fun and an ever-so-subtle flirtation with the audience," Ms. Reynolds remarked.
Stars and Stripes (1958), to the music of John Philip Sousa, is one of several Balanchine salutes to America, his adopted country. This full-company ballet, complete with baton twirling, military marching, and a regiment of rifle-bearing females, culminates in a showy and challenging pas de deux, originally danced by Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise. At the time, P. W. Manchester noted with some amusement that "[the two] piled climax upon climax until the audience was in a state of almost gibbering excitement" (Dance News, October 1958).
In quite another vein is the bubbling, cheerful Donizetti Variations (originally called Variations from "Don Sebastian"), choreographed by Balanchine in 1960 for Melissa Hayden, Jonathan Watts, and a small corps de ballet. Because of the ballet's compact size and fluent, non-stop, "dancey" steps, it has become a great favorite with companies and dance afficianados throughout the country.
"Melissa's performance in both of these ballets was always a pleasure," concluded Ms. Reynolds, "Unquestionably; her interpretations of the original choreography will provide skillful insight into the roles."
MELISSA HAYDEN was born in Toronto, where she studied ballet with Boris Volkov. After a brief stint at Radio City Music Hall, she joined Ballet Theatre, soon becoming a soloist, in 1945. Although she danced with several other companies, her principal career took place at the New York City Ballet, where she was a soloist in 1953-54 and principal dancer from 1955 until 1973. While Ms. Hayden always excelled at dramatic roles-notably, the leads in William Dollar's The Duel, Frederick Ashton's Illuminations, Todd Bolender's The Still Point, and Birgit Cullberg's Medea--Balanchine developed the classical side of her dancing when he choreographed roles for her in Agon, The Figure in the Carpet, La Source, and Brahms-Schoenberp Quartet, as well as showcasing her dramatic talents in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Liebeslieder Walzer, among others. When Ms. Hayden announced her retirement in 1973, Balanchine created a ballet in her honor, Cortège Hongrois. Since 1983, she has been on the faculty of the North Carolina School of the Arts.
CHARLES ASKEGARD joined American Ballet Theatre in 1987, becoming a soloist in1992. In 1997, he became a member of the New York City Ballet, where he was promoted to principal dancer in 1998. Mr. Askegard has danced in many ballets by Balanchine and Robbins and has had roles created for him by Peter Martins in River of Light, Swan Lake, and Them Twos. He is in particular demand as a classical partner. He has made guest appearances with several other companies and may be seen in the Fred Wiseman documentary on ABT, "Ballet."
PETER BOAL danced the Nutcracker Prince at the age of eleven in Balanchine's production. He became a principal dancer of the New York City Ballet in 1989, singled out for his "impeccable line, quiet musicianship and aristocratic bearing" by New York Post critic Clive Barnes. Mr. Boal has danced a wide variety of ballets in the NYCB repertory, including the plum Balanchine roles of Apollo, Prodigal Son, and Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as a host of leading roles by other choreographers. He has been seen on television performing Balanchine's Western Symphony and Agon. He also appears in the Balanchine Foundation's video series "The Balanchine Essays." With Judith Fugate, he took part in an earlier Interpreters Archive video, working with Maria Tallchief on Scotch Symphony. In 1996, Mr. Boa1 received a Dance Magazine Award.
GILLIAN MURPHY was born in England and raised in the United States. Under the tutelage of Melissa Hayden at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she danced principal roles in several school productions, including Balanchine ballets. After winning awards and prizes as a student, she joined American Ballet Theatre in 1996 and was promoted to soloist in 1999. In addition to numerous solo roles, her repertory includes Gamzatti in La Bavadère, Myrtha in Giselle, and Gulnare in Le Corsaire.
NANCY REYNOLDS, who was in the original cast of Stars and Stripes, is now a dance historian and author. She is presently Director of Research for The George Balanchine Foundation and an editor of the multivolume International Encyclopedia of Dance, has published by Oxford University Press in 1998. She has recently completed writing a history of theatrical dance in the 20th century, soon to be released by Yale University Press.