Melissa Hayden was born Millie Herman to Jewish immigrants from Russia in Toronto. She moved to New York City to dance at Radio City Music Hall. Recruited by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, Melissa Hayden became a founding dancer of New York City Ballet in 1948. Although it was unusual for a ballerina, Ms. Hayden had a career, a marriage, and two children. After her retirement from NYCB, she headed the ballet department at Skidmore College and the School of Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, where she was briefly artistic director. She also taught at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. In addition, she had her own dance school in Manhattan.