Fred Benjamin, Instructor of Jazz Dance, Dies at sixty nine

December 20th, 2013

Fred Benjamin, an internationally known instructor of jazz dance who was also portion of the imaginative wave of younger black modern day-dance choreographers who came to prominence in the seventies, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 69.

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The result in was organ failure, explained Geneva Vivino, a family members pal and a previous dancer in the Fred Benjamin Dance Business. Mr. Benjamin experienced recovered from a stroke he experienced in 2003 and continued teaching each in the United States and abroad. He experienced been chairman of the jazz section and a school adviser at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Heart in the nineteen nineties. Ms. Vivino mentioned he taught up to a month in the past at the Steps on Broadway studios, exactly where he was a beloved if stringent instructor for a lot of many years.

As a choreographer for his possess troupe and other organizations, Mr. Benjamin specialised in the type of contemporary dance known as jazz dance. But not like most others in the genre, he built-in ballet approach into a very propulsive type.

At the very same time, he was usually concerned with the black heritage, an influence he derived from the present day-dance pioneer Talley Beatty, in whose organization he danced from 1963 to 1966.

In 1976 Mr. Benjamin choreographed “Travels Just Outside the house House,” primarily based on his personal expertise in an crisis place right after he was stabbed 6 times by burglars in his apartment building. He instructed The New York Occasions that the dance was motivated by the feeling “of being presented sedatives as I was being put to rest.”

Fred Benjamin was born in Boston on Sept. 8, 1944, and started studying dance there at age four at the Elma Lewis College of Wonderful Arts in the Roxbury neighborhood. When the MacArthur Basis initiated its so-named genius grants, Ms. Lewis was among the initial recipients, singled out as one particular of the foremost dance educators in a black local community. When Mr. Benjamin moved to New York in 1962, she financed his ballet lessons.

She also released him to Mr. Beatty, who grew to become another essential mentor and to whom he compensated tribute in his choreography. Following leaving the Talley Beatty Dance Firm, Mr. Benjamin performed with the June Taylor Dancers and on Broadway in “Hello, Dolly!” and “Promises, Claims.” He fashioned the Fred Benjamin Dance Company in 1968.

Through his profession, Mr. Benjamin remained associated with black dance packages. His company was a mainstay of the Harlem Cultural Council’s Dancemobile: the dancers performed on flatbed vans in a variety of neighborhoods.

Like a lot of younger black choreographers rising in the sixties and seventies, he identified a nurturing surroundings at the Clark Heart for the Carrying out Arts in Manhattan. Despite the fact that open up to all, its courses and performances in the West Facet Y.W.C.A. had been organized by Mr. Ailey and other folks in 1959 to foster chances for black dancers and choreographers. Mr. Benjamin remained linked with the middle as a trainer and performer until finally it shut in the 1980s.

He is survived by a sister, Ruth Benjamin, and a brother, Kenneth Benjamin Jr.

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