Burch Mann Holtzman, founder and choreographer of The American Folk Ballet, died Tuesday, June 25, 1996 at her home in Cedar City.
She was born August 16, 1908 in Wise County, Texas, to Andrew G. and Lottie Mathew Mann. She married Joy Holtzman in Tulsa, Oklahoma in April 1929, and they were the parents of a daughter, San Christopher. Both her husband and daughter preceded her in death.Burch was raised on her grandfather's ranch in Texas. Her father's business in the oil industry took the family to Oklahoma, where Ms. Mann attended high school. In 1928 she moved to New York City to study dance from a succession of ballet masters then coming out of Russia, including Bolm, Alberteri, Mordkin and Fokine. She performed as a featured dancer with the Michael Mordkin Ballet Company and was among the first classical ballet performers to tour America.
In the 1930's she served as choreographer for some of the leading nightclubs on the east coast, including The Martinique, Havana Madrid, The Latin Quarter in New York City and The Mayflower in Boston. Ultimately she was called to Hollywood where she choreographed for movies and television. She created and choreographed all the Mouseketeer's productions in the first years of the Mickey Mouse Club. She produced dances for large pageants and special productions such as "Dixieland at Disneyland".
In 1960 she established a school of dance in Pasadena, California, and the same year she formed the Burch Mann Dancers, a professional dance company. Two years later, the dance company was renamed The American Folk Ballet.
The American Folk Ballet traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe, including highly publicized tours of Israel and Russia, the latter producing a television special, "Distant Dance", which played extensively on PBS. The company made five appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and was featured on the Oscar Awards ceremonies of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1971 she provided the choreography for Utah State University's historical pageant "The West: America's Odyssey", and was chair of USU's dance workshop, Dance West, for eight years.
In 1982, Ms. Mann moved her dance company to Cedar City, Utah, where she served as Distinguished Artist in Residence at Southern Utah University until her retirement in 1992. She created SUU's dance program in the department of Theatre and Dance.
Ms. Mann has received many awards: the George Washington Freedom Foundation Medal, the Dance in Action Award, the Honorary Alumna Award at Utah State University, the Distinguished Service Award from Southern Utah University in 1991, the Governor's Award in the Arts from Governor Bangerter, the Outstanding Contributor to the Arts in Cedar City by the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce. In honor of her eightieth birthday, former Cedar City Mayor Robert Linford declared August 16 as Burch Mann Day. Recognized throughout the world for her distinctive and innovative choreography, she was compared to noted choreographers Nadezhdena and Moiseyev by Israili Dance Critic Deborah Bertonoff.
Ms. Mann is survived by her sister, T Kelly, of Bellingham, Washington.
Funeral/Memorial services will be held Monday, July 1, 1996 at 10 a.m. in the Gilbert Great Hall on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.
In lieu of flowers, Ms. Mann requested that donations be made to the Christopher/Mann Special Collection in the SUU Library, or the Burch Mann Scholarship Fund for Dance, c/o The Southern Utah University Foundation, 351 West Center, Cedar City, UT 84720.
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