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After a stroke in 2004, Benjamin continued to present his works, because, as he told COOL,
“It’s continuous to me … I was mostly used to doing stuff physically … Now I have to do it verbally. So I learned how to paint pictures with the words.”
Even then, with no intention of stopping, when asked what he planned for the future, he said, “To keep doing constant work.”
Fred Benjamin died on December 14, 2013, of organ failure in Manhattan, New York.
Benjamin’s friends already miss him. Said Wong, “We all thought he would recover … I’m still a bit numb. It’s sad and I’m sad. I shall miss his smile and his laser-sharp wit … his ability to evaluate situations and most certainly his friendliness towards me.”
“He was a remarkable talent—30 years before his time,” said Myers Brown. “He will be missed but always loved. I am greatly saddened.” A note on the Steps on Broadway website reads, “His kind and generous spirit will be sorely missed.”
Tracy Inman, co-director of the Ailey School, said, “All of us at the Ailey School was deeply saddened by the passing of Fred Benjamin, who was a dedicated chairperson and instructor for the Ailey School’s jazz department for many years. By so generously sharing his knowledge, he had a great impact on thousands of aspiring students from every corner of the world. His love, respect, and passion for dance made him an inspirational mentor and teacher for generations of dancers.”
Ailey School Co-Director Melanie Person said, “Fred touched the lives of so many students at The Ailey School. He will be missed!”
In a conversation, I had with Fred he speaks about choreographing the off-Broadway show, ‘Soon’, in early 1971, moving from dancer to choreographer and establishing himself in Amsterdam.
He sums it up by saying, “It’s been a great journey.” – JILL WILLIAMS