Mary Ellen Moylan, ‘First Great Balanchine Dancer,’ Is Dead at 94

Not long afterward, Balanchine and the set designer Oliver Smith, the co-director of American Ballet Theater, asked her to lunch. Balanchine wanted to choreograph a principal role for her in a new ballet, “Theme and Variations,” and Smith asked her to join the company.

“I thought for a moment and said no,” Ms. Moylan recalled in “I Remember Balanchine.” “I had an opportunity to go back to Ballet Russe and dance all the big old roles, and I preferred that. Balanchine was astonished, I think.”

But even at the Ballet Russe, she remained a signature Balanchine dancer.

“Her brilliance of style, her wonderful technical facility, and her great personal distinction are admirably exhibited here,” Mr. Martin of The Times wrote in a review of a 1949 production of “Ballet Imperial,” “and Balanchine’s choreographic tribute to the great days of the Russian Imperial Ballet could scarcely have found a more eloquent instrument.”

Ms. Moylan joined Ballet Theater in 1950 and toured South America and Europe, teaching herself French. She danced leading roles in “Giselle” and “Sleeping Beauty” as well as in Roland Petit’s “Les Demoiselles de la Nuit,” Balanchine’s “Apollo” and Tudor’s “Lilac Garden,” among other works.

In 1955 she joined the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, where she created roles in Zachary Solov’s “Soirée” and in a number of opera ballets. She returned to operetta in 1957, appearing as the premiere danseuse in a new staging of “The Merry Widow,” with choreography again by Balanchine.

Later that year Ms. Moylan married a longtime suitor, Robert Stanley Bailes, whom she had met when both were in “Song of Norway,” he as an understudy. She then retired from the stage. They moved to Costa Mesa, Calif., where they bought a hamburger stand. Ms. Moylan had a son and worked with her husband in the shop.