Bill Arnold, Courtesy Arnold

Co-creator of Contact Improvisation, improviser extraordinaire, and founder and co-editor of Contact Quarterly, Nancy Stark Smith passed away on May 1. A force as a dancer and an educator, she created a network of love for improvisation on a global scale. She died in her home in Florence, MA, of ovarian cancer. Messages from all over the world registered shock, sadness and poetic memories on social media.

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Photo by Kyle Froman
Update March 31, 2020: This article was first published in Dance Teacher, February 2009.

One of today's leading ballet masters, German-born Wilhelm Burmann exerts a magnetic attraction on the professional students he teaches five days a week at Steps on Broadway in New York City. “Taking Willie's class" has become a tradition for many top dancers of both New York–based companies and those simply passing through town.

Standing ramrod straight at age 69, Burmann embodies the authority and skills he acquired during an extensive global career. He was a corps member of the Pennsylvania Ballet and New York City Ballet, a Frankfurt Ballet principal dancer, Stuttgart and Geneva company principal and ballet master, and ballet master for The Washington Ballet and Le Ballet du Nord, among others. After he retired from dancing in 1977, Burmann took up guest teaching and is still in great demand at prestigious American and European companies and schools: This year he will teach in Florence and Milan, Italy.

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