Burch Mann was born and raised on her grandfather’s ranch forty miles west of Dallas, Texas. At age twelve, her father, inspired by the news of the rich oil strikes, dragged the family from quiet rural life into the tumult of oil boom towns. In one of these unusual places, on the plains of Oklahoma, Ms. Mann discovered dance.
Finishing high school she went to New York to become a “ballerina”. In 1928 many ballet masters were coming to New York City fleeing revolutionary Russia. Ms Mann was fortunate enough to study under some of the greatest teachers in the world. One of these teachers was Mordkin with whom she traveled on tour as a member of the Mordkin Ballet Company. When they reached Dallas, her rancher relatives came to see the ballet and thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen, especially men in tights.
In response, Ms. Mann decided to create a ballet company which even ranchers could appreciate. She says, “In creating the American Folk Ballet, I have thrown out none of the discipline and technique of classical dance, merely added to the vocabulary. Just as the English language had to add new words to describe the American experience. I use the word “folk” as it is a mark of the dignity and worth of the individual - a living record of a people. Out of our national heritage I believe I have created a valuable, artistic whole, something totally unique.”
Ms. Mann’s unique background included more than fifty years of dance experience. Among her credits are numerous film and television productions: the Ed Sullivan show, Hollywood’s Academy Awards, Treasure of Matecumbe produced for Disney Studios, and all of the production numbers for the Mickey Mouse Club in the first year.
Among her many awards are the George Washington Freedom Foundation medal and the Governor’s Award from the State of Utah. Through all her years in dance, Ms. Mann has said that she tried to remember that Art was not some great spectacle, but the simple and thrilling story of man’s journey across the earth. Sadly, Burch Mann passed away in 1996, but the company she created continues to thrive and present her legacy.