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Fred Benjamin
Born: September 8, 1944
Occupation: dancer, choreographer, instructor
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Fred Benjamin began dancing at age four at Elma Lewis' School of Fine Arts in Roxbury. Benjamin danced with Talley Beatty from 1963 until 1966, when the company folded. Two years later, he started his own New York-based Fred Benjamin Dance Company, which existed, largely without funding, for 20 years. Like most African-American choreographers of the time, Benjamin's work was compared to that of Alvin Ailey, but Benjamin modeled himself after his idol, Beatty. The group movement in "Parallel Lines," the emphasis on entrances in a work such as "Our Thing," the signature sassiness of many other works -- all reflected Beatty's influence. Benjamin added ballet to Beatty's contemporary, energized style and helped popularize the genre known as ballet-jazz. He introduced many inner-city youth to dance via the Harlem Cultural Council's annual DanceMobile series, but his greatest gift may have been in teaching. At New York's Clark Center for the Performing Arts and Steps studios, Benjamin influenced many young dancers. Benjamin has also worked extensively in theatrical dance. He has taught in the Netherlands, worked in summer stock, and danced with the June Taylor Dancers. On Broadway he worked with Gower Champion and Michael Bennett and performed in such hits as "Hello, Dolly!" and "Promises, Promises."

-- Julinda Lewis-Ferguson

Emery, Lynne Fauley. "Concert Dance: 1950Today." In BLACK DANCE FROM 1619 TO TODAY. Princeton, N.J., 1988, p. 305.

Source Citation: "Fred Benjamin." ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE AND HISTORY . 5 vols. Macmillan, 1996. Reprinted by permission of Gale Group.