Wilhelm “Willy” Burmann was once called one of the greatest teachers in classical dance.
Burmann will be presented with the Artist Teacher Award during tonight’s performance of the Chautauqua Festival Dancers and Music School Festival Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. in the Amphitheater.
The Artist Teacher Award is an honor bestowed upon exceptional teachers of dance, who have dedicated their lives to supporting, fostering and shaping dance students. The award is funded by an endowment from Chautauquan Kay Logan, and was created by Logan and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, artistic director of Chautauqua Dance.
Burmann has a long history of teaching and has worked with some of the most famous dancers in the world. He was the ballet master for the Washington Ballet, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Frankfurt Ballet and Ballet du Nord. He has taught worldwide for dance companies such as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet, among others.
Burmann said a good dance teacher is one that is selfless. He said teaching, like dancing or choreographing, is a calling.
“From the beginning, I have always tried to help people,” Burmann said.
Before becoming a dance instructor, Burmann danced with the New York City Ballet for four years. He was a principal dancer for the Frankfurt Ballet and Grand Théatre de Genève and performed with the Stuttgart Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Joffrey Ballet.
Burmann was born in Germany and he said that being able to come to America and have a career in dance, especially at the NYCB was something he never expected.
“I appreciate every single day,” he said.
Burmann worked together with Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride, master teacher at Chautauqua Dance, in the NYCB. Bonnefoux often watched Burmann teach classes in New York.
Burmann is excited to be at Chautauqua Institution for the first time to receive the award, especially since Bonnefoux is a good friend.
“I couldn’t ask for better,” he said.