Born in Wheaton, Illinois, Bennett studied with Chicago teachers Walter Camryn and Bentley Stone; he joined Ballet Theatre in 1953. In 1960, after a principal dancer career with ABT and performances on television and in several Broadway musicals, Bennett shifted to New York City Ballet.
In 1961, he helped found the First Chamber Quartet, a touring company of former ABT and NYCB dancers that in expanded form made two four-month tours of Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America under the auspices of the U.S. State Department. In 1974, the group relocated to Seattle and was renamed the First Chamber Dance Company, with Bennett as sole artistic director. The company folded in 1979, but educational programs, such as the Summer Dance Laboratory (which began at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, in 1976 and has been affiliated with the Joffrey since 1984) continue to have considerable impact on the region's ballet training.
An experienced choreographer--he created seventy works for First Chamber alone--Bennett became associate director of California Ballet in 1983, where he was principal choreographer for twenty-five years.
He is survived by his longtime partner, costumer Alan Madsen, and by his brother, James, of Whidbey Island, Washington.
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|Title Annotation:||founding artistic director of the First Chamber Dance Company|
|Author:||West, Martha Ullman|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2003|
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