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Ed Burgess

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Burgess, Ed Dance professor University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, dancer, choreographer, stage director and movement coach with nationwide credits, died in his sleep Wednesday night, May 11, 2011. He was 58. Burgess joined UWM in 1989, after a substantial dance career followed by guest teaching career that had taken him all over the U.S., Europe, Ireland and Asia. He danced with Jennifer Muller and The Works from 1979 through 1983, and the Connecticut Dance Theatre from 1977 to 1979. During his career, Burgess taught for Muller and at Dennis Wayne's school in New York. After 1983, he devoted himself more and more to teaching. Burgess was a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University and won teaching residencies at the Dublin Contemporary Dance Company, the University of Nebraska, Rollins College, VCU and many other institutions. Burgess, a native of Oklahoma, made his most significant and enduring contributions in Milwaukee. He came first as a guest instructor in 1984. From 1987 through 1989, the Milwaukee Ballet School brought him in to teach at its summer intensives. He joined the UW-Milwaukee dance faculty as an assistant professor in 1989, and over the years rose to full professor. He was chairman of the department at the time of his death. Burgess was a key figure in the department's ascent to the top ranks of academic dance. He stressed creativity, persistence and entrepreneurship in addition to strong technique. The generations of UWM dancers who have made Milwaukee's dance scene so vibrant are Burgess' greatest legacy. Burgess' influence extended to dance and theater companies beyond campus. He choreographed for and sometimes danced with the Milwaukee Ballet and frequently taught modern-dance classes there. He created works for Your Mother Dances, Danceworks and Wild Space, among other companies. Often, he generously appeared in and created work for independent programs put on by former students. He created innumerable dances for UWM students and appeared in countless shows at UWM, and he was the go-to choreographer and movement coach for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Burgess worked as an actor, too. On May 5-8, just before his death, Burgess played Nijinsky in Theatre Gigante's "Isadora and Nijinsky," which he co-wrote with Isabelle Kralj and Mark Anderson. (Burgess appeared to be in good health during that run.) His credits as a theater director, mostly for musicals, include The Cleveland Playhouse, The Monomoy Theatre on Cape Cod, The Hartt School in Hartford, CT, and the Bay View Music Festival on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Burgess was a very capable administrator and project partner. He has played an important role, for example, in the Harmony Initiative, which involves the Milwaukee Ballet, The Medical College of Wisconsin, and the UWM Peck School of the Arts. That project would bring the city the dance center and small theater fans and dancers have dreamed of for decades. Burgess' work ethic, his open-minded sense of fun in the theater, and his personal kindness and integrity inspired generations of students. Ed Burgess died too young but used the time he had to make a huge difference at UWM and in Milwaukee's cultural life. A celebration of Ed's life is being planned for February 5, 2012. Photo courtesy of Jessica Kaminski.

Published in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on May 29, 2011
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