Wilhelm Burmann

Wilhelm "Willy" Burmann (April 3, 1939 – March 30, 2020) was a German dancer, ballet master, and teacher.

Wilhelm Burmann
Born(1939-04-03)April 3, 1939
DiedMarch 30, 2020(2020-03-30) (aged 80)
OccupationBallet master, ballet dancer, teacher
Partner(s)Alfonso Catá

Early lifeEdit

Burmann was born on April 3, 1939 in Oberhausen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, where he grew up on a farm.[1][2] He had one sister, Christel Weideman.[3] He began training as a dancer when he was fifteen years old.[1]


Burmann was a principal dancer for companies including Frankfurt Ballet, Grand Théâtre du Genève, and Stuttgart Ballet. He also danced with companies including New York City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, and New Jersey Ballet.[1] Burmann retired from dancing in 1977.[4]

Burmann was a ballet master at the Washington Ballet and the Ballet du Nord.[1] He was also known for his professional dance classes at Steps on Broadway in Manhattan, which he taught from 1984 until March 20, 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic required classes to be suspended.[1][3] He had also taught at the Melissa Hayden School of Ballet, Harkness Ballet School, and Ballet Arts, and had been a guest member of faculty at companies including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, La Scala, Ballet Nacional Sodre, and The Australian Ballet.[5] His teaching style, which was fast-paced and demanding,[6] has been compared to that of George Balanchine, for whom Burmann danced for four years. Burmann was described by The New York Times in 2004 as "easily the most revered New York ballet teacher of his era".[7]

Some of Burmann's students included Alessandra Ferri, Julio Bocca, Maria Kowroski, Wendy Whelan, Alexandra Ansanelli, Ángel Corella, and Michele Wiles.[1][7]

Personal life and deathEdit

Burmann's longtime partner was Alfonso Catá, who was also a dancer and had been the artistic director of Ballet du Nord. Catá died in 1990 of a brain tumor.[3][8]

Burmann began to grow ill in 2018, though he did not ease his teaching schedule. On March 30, 2020, he died in Mount Sinai West hospital from renal failure, after COVID-19 complicated his treatment.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kourlas, Gia (April 4, 2020). "Wilhelm Burmann, Teacher of Ballet's Brightest, Dies at 80". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  2. ^ "Corrections: April 17, 2020". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Chang, Richard (April 1, 2020). "Wilhelm Burmann, master teacher to ballet stars, dies at 80; tested positive for coronavirus". Reuters. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  4. ^ Green, Harris (February 2009). "Face to Face: Wilhelm Burmann". Dance Teacher. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  5. ^ "Wilhelm Burmann". Steps on Broadway. March 31, 2020. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  6. ^ Stafford, Abi (April 1, 2020). "Remembering Iconic Steps Teacher Wilhelm "Willy" Burmann". Dance Magazine. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Kourlas, Gia (May 30, 2004). "DANCE; The Drill Sergeant of Dance". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  8. ^ "Alfonso Cata, 53, A Dancer, Teacher And Ballet Director". The New York Times. September 22, 1990. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 6, 2020.