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Guest Instructor – Ben Needham-Wood

Born in Massachusetts, Ben's ballet training began at the age of 5 at L'ecole de Ballet under the instruction of Clarissa Eaton. He then went on to further his training with the Boston-based ballet company, Dance Prism, directed by Scott Ranegan and Mary Demaso. Ben spent his high school years attending the prestigious St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, where he continued his dance education under the direction of Rebecca Wright (2002-2004) and Sharon Randolph (2004-2006). During his time at SPS, Ben wasthe recipient of several awards, most notably the McLeod Prize (for the student who has contributed the most to the dance program through talent, dedication, enthusiasm, and spirit), the Schlager Prize for Valor (for the student who has exhibited courage, strength of character, and a determination to succeed), and The Form of 1971 Visionary Award (for demonstrating "originality, creativity, capacity for self-direction, and other immeasurable, often unheralded, qualities that have been a source of inspiration"). After graduating with distinctions from St. Paul's School, Ben continued his dance education at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, where he received instruction from professors Shellie Cash (Division Head), Yi Qi Cheng, Michael Tevlin, and Jiang Qi. After his second year at CCM, Ben was offered, and accepted, a contract with the Louisville Ballet. Ben continued working towards his degree while dancing with the Louisville Ballet, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Ballet in June 2010. PERFORMANCE CAREER As a Company Artist with the Louisville Ballet, Ben was fortunate to perform a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary works. Some of his most notable classical roles include "Romeo" in Alun Jonesʼs Romeo and Juliet, "Armand" in Val Caniparoli's Lady of the Camellias, and "Porthos" in Andre Prokovsky's Three Musketeers. It is in the realm of contemporary ballet where Ben found his true passion. His range of contemporary repertoire includes works by such distinguished choreographers as Val Caniparoli, Adam Hougland, Bruce Marks, Robert North, Helen Pickett, Amy Seiwert, Twyla Tharp, and Lila York. Some of Ben's personal favorites include Adam Houglandʼs Cold Virtues, Robert North's Troy Game, and Helen Pickett's Etesian. In addition to his work with the Louisville Ballet, Ben has also participated in a multitude of festivals, galas, competitions, and professional choreography projects. In 2009, Ben competed in the 10th New York International Ballet Competition, where he and his partner, Caroline Betancourt, were invited to perform Paul Taylorʼs Aureole pas de deux in the Gala performance, earning a favorable review from the New York Times. That same summer, Ben worked as a dancer for the National Choreographers Initiative in Irvine, CA. This ultimately led to his involvement with the 2010 Career Transitions for Dancers Benefit Gala in New York City where he was honored to share the stage with such great artists as Ann Marie DeAngelo, Marvin Hamlisch, Angela Lansbury, Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking, and Chita Rivera. Ben was also a participant in the first ever Boston International Ballet Competition. Ben has enjoyed performing as a guest artist with several companies across the United States – SFDanceworks (CA), Appalachian Ballet Company (TN), Dance China New York (NY), Dayton Ballet (OH), Fort Wayne Ballet (IN), and Bruce Wood Dance Project (TX), to name a few. One of his favorite part-time engagements has been with Amy Seiwertʼs Imagery, a contemporary ballet company based in San Francisco, CA. There Ben has had the opportunity to perform original works by innovative choreographers such as Julia Adams, Marc Brew, Adam Hougland, Matthew Neenan, Gina Patterson, and, of course, Amy Seiwert. Through his work with Amy Seiwert's Imagery, Ben developed a special appreciation for the dance community of San Francisco. In August 2013, Ben joined Smuin Contemporary American Ballet (formerly Smuin Ballet) and relocated to the Bay Area where he currently resides. His work with Smuin has offered Ben the opportunity to continue performing great contemporary works, adding choreographers like Garrett Ammon, Ma Cong, Jiri Kylian, Trey McIntyre, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Michael Smuin, and Stanton Welch to his performance repertoire. CHOREOGRAPHIC/LEADERSHIP CAREER While Ben's career is still focused primarily in performance, he has always held a strong passion for choreography. He choreographed his first work in high school, and received his first commission while dancing with the Louisville Ballet. Louisville proved to be an incredibly supportive platform for Ben to develop his choreographic voice, offering him the opportunity to create several works on both the Company and its Youth Ensemble. He has continued choreographing professionally since relocating to the Bay Area, with main stage commissions from both Smuin and Dance Theatre of San Francisco. His works have been performed at festivals, concerts, and galas across the country, as well as Montreal, QC. During the summer of 2015, Ben collaborated with his close friend, Weston Krukow, and CSN Bay Area on a new TV feature, BaseBallet. The response was overwhelmingly positive, landing BaseBallet in "The Dancing Athlete Exhibit" at the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame. Then, on June 4th, 2016, BaseBallet was honored to receive a Northern California Area Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in "Arts/Entertainment-Feature/Segment" recognizing Ben and Weston for their choreography. The success of BaseBallet prompted the formation of Athletic Art Productions - a new company, cofounded and directed by Ben and Weston, aiming to promote the athleticism of dance. Under this new heading a follow up TV special was produced, BaseBallet: Into the Game, and broadcast on NBC Sports Bay Area. **Last updated 1/04/2018