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Written by: DanceDirectory

Born in Pretoria in 1961, Burnett emerged during the 1980s as an exceptional dancer whose performances in a wide-ranging repertoire came to be admired for the luminous aura that is the hallmark of the dancer who truly deserves the title of ballerina.

Her definitive portrayals of the celebrated roles - among them: Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and the title role in La Sylphide - will be remembered as being among the most glittering jewels, not only in Pact Ballet's crown, but in the history of South African ballet.

Burnett also excelled in the works of the many distinguished choreographers represented in the Pact Ballet repertoire - nowhere more brilliantly than in the ballets of the legendary George Balanchine. In Agon, Rubies, Who Cares?, Theme and Variations and other Balanchine ballets, her performances perfumed the air and sent audiences into the night feeling the world had somehow become a better place.

Catherine Burnett retired at the pinnacle of her career in 1991. But whatever heights she achieved in that career - and they were Olympian - it was as mother to "my girls", as a friend to many, and as a remarkable human being that Catherine Burnett achieved her greatest role.

Her exceptional gifts allowed her to make roles in minor works, such as Natasha in War and Peace or Phrygia in Spartacus, seem like major expressions of the ballerina repertoire. Whether in narrative or pure dance works, her performances glowed with meaning and subtext. Yet Burnett shunned publicity and feared media interviews, as if talking about her art would compel her to put into words that which she so eloquently expressed through movement.

She was our Margot Fonteyn and her Dying Swan will never be forgotten. Maxine Denys recently wrote in Ballet Magazine: The Dying Swan should really now be shelved until another artiste can rise to equal the singular 1991 interpretation by Catherine Burnett.

In Plettenberg Bay, she was simply known as Katerina Ballerina. Because of her modesty, few people had any idea that she had been one of South Africas prima ballerinas.

She is survived by her daughters, Victoria and Emma, two brothers and two sisters.


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