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Dancing queen dies

By Joanne Briggs, Trinidad Guardian, 31 March 2000

Beryl McBurnie, known in the artistic world as the Grand Dame of Dance, died early yesterday morning.

Her close friend, Junior Telfer, said she died at about 1.10 am.

McBurnie complained of feeling unwell and was rushed to St Clair Medical Hospital by her housekeeper and a friend.

"She was ailing for a while. It was not unexpected," Telfer said.

Aubrey Adams, chairman of the Little Carib Theatre which McBurnie founded, said she recovered from a heart problem three years ago.

"And then arthritis stepped in. Although her spirits were very high and she was of sound mind, she could not move around as much as she did. She was a highly- strung person in her younger days," he said.

Nobody could say yesterday exactly what year McBurnie was born, although many believe she was in her 80s.

"Only God and Beryl know that," joked Telfer.

"She retained her femininity in that way. That was her personal business."

Her sister and only sibling, Freida McBurnie-Artman died in 1997.

Yesterday evening McBurnie's friends gathered at her home/studio at Panka Street, St James, to discuss plans for her funeral, which may take place next week Tuesday at the Trinity Cathedral.

Adams said he intended to speak with Prime Minister Basdeo Panday about holding a State funeral for McBurnie.

At the sod-turning ceremony for a Spiritual Baptist primary school in Maloney, Panday called her death, "a sad loss indeed."

"The nation and the culture of Trinidad and Tobago owes a tremendous amount to her," he said.

In 1989, McBurnie was the recipient of the nation's highest honour, the Trinity Cross.

"She gave the Little Carib as a gift to the country," said Adams.