Artistic and executive Director, Elfriede Merman (nee Von Busse)
As a child, Elfriede was chosen by her government to be trained in classic Russian technique at the prestigious Munich National State Opera. She credits her teachers, the renowned Erna Gerbal and Tatiana Gsovsky, for her early years of training. She was also influenced by Pino Mlaker, the Ballet Master and choreographer. Taken by the young Elfriede, the opera house gave her solo roles in Pino Mlaker's Josef Legende (premier) and Capriccio (premier) among others. It was here she met her life long friend and coach, Natasha Boskovich.
In Paris, Elfriede had the honor of joining the legendary Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo. Under the director, Serge Denham, she traveled four continents dancing with Nora Novick and Danilova. Many solo performances followed in prominent dances such as Scheherezade, Blue Bird and Carnival.
When Hollywood came calling, Elfriede would often lend a hand (and foot) to Fred Astaire, helping to integrate classic dance moves with modern choreography. She also worked in television and on the stage - notably with the choreographer/actor Jack Cole who was known for many stage works, including Some Like it Hot.
Her teaching career began at the Windsor Mountain School where she developed the ballet department, teaching Liza Minelli, Jane Fonda and Shari Belafonte. Through her friendship with the school's director, Dr. Gertrude Bondi, she began to make the transition from performer to teacher. Three years later, along with Patricia Savoia, Elfriede opened The Manhattan Ballet School, determined to offer the old tradition of European education combining music, drama, coaching and the subtleties that make ballet one of the greatest and most enduring art forms. Elfriede's dedication and personal attention to students continues today, making The Manhattan Ballet School a one-of-a-kind experience and a beloved institution.