ACTIVE RELEASES


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jamie Benson  /  323-704-5287  /  info@jamiebenson.com

After Church Controversy, Festival Supports Gay Visibility Campaign

Human Rights Festival Uses Humor as Agent for Social Change with New Partnership

NEW YORK, NY - The International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF) is partnering with artist Jamie Benson to co-produce Gay Stuff, a new web series confronting homophobia through humor, as well as a campaign to increase gay visibility. This partnership is in direct response to His Eminence Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan banning IHRAF’s Prologue to Progress from being performed in St. Mary's Catholic Church last fall, due to LGBTQ content.

"Being banned from having our event in a Catholic space last October, as well as the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed a baker to legally discriminate against LGBTQ couples, has only deepened my commitment to opening hearts, softening minds, and revealing systemic bigotry as a cancer on society. - Thomas Block, IHRAF Founding Producer

IHRAF will co-produce 2 comedic video sketches, written by recovering contemporary and commercial dancer Jamie Benson. These sketches are based on Benson’s serious, real life experiences, but presented with a laugh-first point of view.

  • Gay-splainer satirically pokes fun at people who treat the queer community like make-over machines and sassy side-kicks.

  • Avenue WTF absurdly depicts a counseling session for a man and his hand, literally exploring gay self love.

With the bold comedic tone of Gay Stuff, IHRAF, known for presenting fine art experiences, expands their arsenal for promoting the common good and fighting for human rights, as they believe comedy has a unique ability to diffuse divisions and address charged social topics.

“We are honored to partner with an artist who uses comedy, honesty and vulnerability to fight against prejudice, hatred and bigotry.” - Thomas Block, IHRAF Founding Producer

  Image by Meghann Street Photography

Image by Meghann Street Photography

Gay Stuff recently debuted as a live event at the Peoples Improv Theater. Metrosource Magazine called it "one of the best" LGBT happenings in New York City, the BK Reader says the event tackled political issues, Broadway World considered it a new kind of coming out story, and Diversity Rules Magazine dedicated their May issue on it.


The video series is currently in a fundraising phase, so IHRAF will act as a fiscal sponsor.

People can mark their tax deductible donation with

"IHRAF: Gay Stuff" in the memo line, and send them to

IHRAF, c/o The Wild Project 195 E. 3rd Street, NY, New York 10009.

IHRAF will also be on hand to promote the work, from pre to post production and publication.

“We hope people recognize themselves in the fun-house mirror we hold up, preferably through laugh-tears.” - Jamie Benson, Rebel-Clown Choreographer / Comedy Nerd

Jamie Benson, proclaimed “one of the strongest, hottest contemporary dancers of his generation" by critic Lewis Segal, and “crazy” by The Dance Enthusiast’s Christine Jowers, is a choreographer and Cornish College of the Arts drop out. Called "Chaplin-like” by Backstage West, Benson danced in LATC’s Shag with a Twist, the film Rent, McDonald's Mario Art commercial, TV show Dance360 and Rudy Perez Ensemble. Described as “insightful and irreverent” by LA Weekly’s Ann Haskins, Benson's lowbrow meets highbrow choreographic work has been presented at the Luckman Complex, Highways Performance Space, Bootleg Theater, NY Transit Museum, Triskelion Arts and Proctor’s Theater. Jamie Benson has been featured in the New York and LA Times, Dance Magazine, Good Magazine, Phaidon Press’ Wild Art, and awarded funding from the Brooklyn Arts Council. His films are official selections of the Cinedans Film Festival, 2015 Athens Video Dance Project, Video Danza Havana, and Bucharest International Dance Film Festival. Learn more at jamiebenson.com.

The International Human Rights Art Festival was founded by visual artist, author, and playwright Tom Block in 2010, as the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival in Silver Spring, MD. Since then, the Festival has been produced in various iterations around the United States, and is now an ongoing, year-round series of art happenings. The Organization’s mission is to offer a continuous series of art-advocacy events, festivals, workshops and community programs at the intersection of art, spirit and society. IHRAF believes that beauty, sincerity and vulnerability are the most powerful tools in the activist’s toolbox, and look to engage in open-hearted creativity and discourse with politicians, social leaders as partners, not adversaries. Learn more at ihraf.org.

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PREVIOUS RELEASES

May 16, 2018 PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Jamie Benson  /  323-704-5287  /  info@jamiebenson.com

Inclusive Dance Group Invited to Reunite

for Park Avenue Armory Performance

NEW YORK, NY - On June 10, 2018 the Park Avenue Armory will present Shakedown Dance, a collective with people of all shapes, ages, and creeds, as part of The Let Go by world renowned artist Nick Cave. 50 members of Shakedown Dance Collective will activate Cave's massive installation, from 3-5pm, closing the exhibit's first weekend. This will be the first time the Shakedown has performed together since January of 2016.

The Let Go, by Nick Cave, featuring the Shakedown
Sunday, June 10, 2018 / 3-5pm
Park Avenue Armory, Wade Thompson Drill Hall
643 Park Ave, New York, NY 10065
cross streets: Park Avenue / 66th Street
$17 Tickets (including a $2 facility fee)

FUN FACT: Shakedown co-founder, Jamie Benson, filled his 50 performance slots in under 24 hours.

Cave is turning the Armory's 37,000 square foot drill hall into a dance hall. There'll be a 100ft long, 40ft tall rainbow colored mylar curtain on a winding track, games of Twister; music by NYC's best DJ’s; a Soul Train platform, and more.

The Let Go Perfectly Suits Shakedown's Mission

The Shakedown's main objective is to bring a large slice of humanity together under the common denominator of dance, creating new access points for cultivating community.

In The Let Go, visitors will be invited to dance with the Shakedown, an opportunity for absolutely anyone to discover the benefits of dance; serving as a call to action for people to defy their couches, meet new people, participate more fully in their communities and challenge their personal limits.

Shakedown Background / Bragging Rights

  • received a residency from Joyce Theater and funding from the Brooklyn Arts Council

  • performed for the River to River Festival, NY Dance Parade, Secret City, Ecstatic Music Festival and New York Transit Museum

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April 2, 2018 PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Jamie Benson  /  323-704-5287  /  info@jamiebenson.com

Misfit Choreographer Turned Comedian Presents 1st Show at the PIT

Gay Stuff” features sardonic sketches, stand-up, sassy walks & political subtext

New York, NY - Comically inclined choreographer Jamie Benson joins forces with Peoples Improv Theater (PIT) to present Gay Stuff on May 15, 2018, from 10-11pm ($8 tickets). Benson, and his outsider comedic team, are debuting 3 sketches, 2 stand-up sets, and some sassy/stupid walks for the PIT’s Striker main stage. Gay Stuff will dissect internalized homophobia, oppressive bro prerogative, and marginalizing gay cliches, but like, with dick jokes.

“It shouldn’t, and may not, work. But, you’ll have a ton to talk about either way, so win.”  - Jamie Benson

Debuting 2 sketches, Jamie Benson will present Gay-splainer, a new app for people who desperately need a bitchy best friend, and Avenue WTF, a couples counseling session that takes non-binary to a whole new level.

With the goal of bringing fresh funny bones to his team, Benson scouted for oddball creatives in local improv and sketch writing classes over the past 6 months. This new comic team originates from the D.C. political scene, modern dance landscape, evangelical Christian world, and more. Christine Driscoll, an environmental policy fugitive, will present Mother’s Maiden Name, a performative rant about password security microaggressions. Experimental Bitch, Hannah Goldman, will introduce a stand up set and the sketch Safe Space, exhibiting bro culture as both endangered and homoerotic- performed entirely by women.

Bored with the pretense of hot moves and high art, Benson, steeped in both modern and commercial dance cultures, may be more of a comedy nerd than dance-lover. After attending a modern dance-based school in Seattle, and auditioning with sexy ass music video types in Los Angeles, Benson has felt continually miscast in his own life. This is the first time he's venturing away from dance to write, produce, and perform a purely comedic, live event.

Jamie Benson, proclaimed “one of the strongest, hottest contemporary dancers of his generation" by critic Lewis Segal, and “crazy” by The Dance Enthusiast’s Christine Jowers, is a choreographer and Cornish College of the Arts drop out. Called "Chaplin-like” by Backstage West, Benson danced in LATC’s Shag with a Twist, the film Rent, McDonald's Mario Art commercial, TV show Dance360 and Rudy Perez Ensemble. Described as “insightful and irreverent” by LA Weekly’s Ann Haskins, Benson's lowbrow meets highbrow choreographic work has been presented at the Luckman Complex, Highways Performance Space, Bootleg Theater, NY Transit Museum, Triskelion Arts and Proctor’s Theater. Jamie Benson has been featured in the New York and LA Times, Dance Magazine, Good Magazine, Phaidon Press’ Wild Art, and awarded funding from the Brooklyn Arts Council. His films are official selections of the Cinedans Film Festival, 2015 Athens Video Dance Project, Video Danza Havana, and Bucharest International Dance Film Festival. Learn more at jamiebenson.com.

Deemed "Best Improv Classes" by New York Magazine, the Peoples Improv Theater is dedicated to fostering the art of comedic theater through coursework in performance, professional writing and production. The theater presents original comedic shows seven nights a week; and a corporate and educational workshop program that offers team building, leadership, and business training.

The PIT was founded by Ali Reza Farahnakian in 2002, in a small black box theater located at 154 W29th Street. After outgrowing its original home, They moved to 123 E 24th Street on December 31, 2010, opening the PIT Striker and PIT Underground theaters. In 2015, the original PIT theater on W 29th Street was renamed The PIT Loft, officially becoming their third theater.

Hannah Goldman is an actor, writer, director, voiceover artist, and style influencer based in Brooklyn. She has trained at Duke Ellington School of the Arts and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Goldman has performed at the Magnet Theater, WOW Cafe/Theater, Greenpoint Gallery, and HappyLucky no.1. She is currently working on a web series about the millennial lifestyle, as well as a dystopian podcast series about the Kardashians. Goldman is also a proud member of Experimental Bitch Presents.

Christine Driscoll is a podcast producer who worked on Gimlet Media's Every Little Thing and Surprisingly Awesome. She is currently producing the first season of a musical advice podcast to come out this summer. Before working in podcasts, Christine was a sustainable policy consultant in D.C. where she wrote about renewable energy, climate agreements, and how to make and sell a more sustainable diaper. She has been performing for nearly three years but still has not reached the high theater of the Congressional Subcommittee hearings that inspired her to enter comedy. Learn more at christine-driscoll.com.

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January 1,  2015 PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Jamie Benson  /  323-704-5287  /  info@jamiebenson.com

Arts Council Grants Choreographer Dance Invasion of NYC Subway

Image by Willie Davis, New York Times

Real people dance real transit stories in historic subway cars

New York, NY – The Brooklyn Arts Council awarded a Community Arts Fund grant to choreographer Jamie Benson for his dance take-over of the New York Transit Museum on April 1, 2015 at 6:30pm. Benson will receive $1700 dollars to cover the cost of rehearsal space, costuming, props and to pay community participants a small honorarium.

Real People, Real Stories: Benson recruited people of all shapes, ages and experience levels to perform choreography adapted from real life transit stories collected from the general public. New recruits will dance with Benson's inclusive dance collective, The Shakedown, and perform on the Museum's platform and inside the historic subway cars. The work will touch base on man-spreading, public drunkenness, loud teenagers, how mobile tech dominates and so much more.

Benson calls the piece “both a love letter and shaking fist to one of the most dynamic cities on earth.”

Fun Fact: Last year, the Shakedown’s planned guerrilla take-over of the NYC subway system was shut down by the MTA for being too dangerous.

Jamie Benson, proclaimed as “one of the strongest, hottest contemporary dancers of his generation" by LA Times’ Lewis Segal, is a New York-based dancer, choreographer and Alumnus of Cornish College of Art. Called "Chaplin-like” by Backstage West, Benson has performed in LATC’s Shag with a Twist, the film Rent, McDonald's Mario commercial, TV show Dance360 and Rudy Perez Ensemble. Described as “insightful and irreverent” by LA Weekly’s Ann Haskins, Benson's lowbrow-meets-highbrow choreographic work has been presented at the Luckman Complex, Highways, Bootleg Theater, New York Transit Museum, Triskelion and Dixon Place. His work has been featured in the NY and LA Times as well as the Phaidon Press book Wild Art. His short films were official selections of the 2014 Cinedans Film Festival and 2015 Athens Video Dance Project in Greece. Learn more at jamiebenson.com

BAC Community Arts Grants help fund project-based work by individual artists. Grants are made possible through the support of the Decentralization Program of the New York Council on the Arts (NYSCA) with the support of Governor Cuomo and the New York Legislature, the New York Arts Development Fund of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) in partnership with NYC Council, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. BAC is the borough’s leading nonprofit organization supporting artists and cultural groups, reaching hundreds of thousands of artists and audience members each year through music, dance, film and visual arts programs, web-based directories and communities, arts education and initiatives, grants, and artists services.

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April 28, 2013 PRESS RELEASE
DANCE, ENTERTAINMENT, ART, COMMUNITY

Dance Creates New Community Out of Thin Air, Again

Non-Dancer Dance Collective Born From Best Performance of 2012

NEW YORK, NY – 55 people of all creeds, shapes & ages have come together to form the Shakedown Dance Collective. Brainchild of professional dancers Deborah Lohse & Jamie Benson, the Shakedown consists of a weekly 2 hour dance class / rehearsal session wherein dance enthusiasts train & prepare for performances throughout New York City. Benson deems it to be, “a relentless dare to the masses to dance, sweat & laugh more.” With just under 2 months since it's inception, the highly inclusive dance group is already slated for 2 performances with the Dance Parade New York.

Many Shakedown dancers first met as part of last year’s Le Grand Continental, an ambitious, 30-minute contemporary line dance by Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Emard. A joint presentation of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council & the Joyce Theater, Le Grand Continental, was performed at the South Street Seaport last Summer & was a sensation; being deemed one of the “Best Moments in Dance of 2012” by New Yorker Magazine. Dance Instructors Deborah Lohse & Jamie Benson, who led the teaching of the event, saw a need for a continuing dance happening for the general public & formed the Shakedown to that end.

Deborah Lohse has been creating live performance since 2007. Her work has been presented at The Clark Theater at Lincoln Center, Dance Theater Workshop, Joyce SoHo, Joe’s Pub, Dixon Place and Dance New Amsterdam. Born and raised in California, Lohse received degrees in dance and theater from the University of California, San Diego. She performed in the work of the Sacramento Ballet, the San Diego Ballet, and Monica Bill Barnes & Company, and currently performs with Doug Elkins. As an educator, Lohse has worked closely with the Lincoln Center Institute, Dance New Amsterdam and Eliot Feld’s Ballet Tech and has been a guest artist at universities and schools including North Carolina School of the Arts, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Purdue University, Milwaukee Ballet and Tahoe Youth Ballet.

Jamie Benson, proclaimed as “one of the strongest, hottest contemporary dancers of his generation" by L.A. Times dance critic Lewis Segal, is a dancer, choreographer & Alumnus of Cornish College of Art. Heralded as "Chaplin-like” by Back Stage West, Benson first garnered critical attention originating the role of “Eldon” in LATC’s Ovation award winning production of Shag with a Twist. Benson has performed in the film Rent, McDonald's Mario Art commercial, Rei Aoo's Dance Planet, on the T.V. series Dance360 & as a member of the Rudy Perez Ensemble. In L.A., Jamie Benson instructed at Gold's Gym, Fancy Feet Studio, the Pasadena Academy & an after-school program at Los Feliz Elementary. Benson recently led over 300 dancers in both NYC & Portland, Oregon in the international line dance event Le Grand Continental.

For more information, photos & interviews, please contact Jamie Benson at 323-704-5287 or info@jamiebenson.com

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August 13, 2012 PRESS RELEASE
DANCE, ENTERTAINMENT, ART, COMMUNITY

First Male to Receive Oregon Dance Scholarship Returns Home to Direct

West Coast Premiere of "Le Grand Continental"

 Image by Carolyn Campbell

Image by Carolyn Campbell

Portland, OR – New York-based professional dancer & Oregon native, Jamie Benson, has accepted the position of Rehearsal Director for Le Grand Continental, an ambitious, 30-minute contemporary line dance by Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Emard. Jamie Benson, the first male ever to receive a dance scholarship from the Dance Drill Coaches Association of Oregon, has since moved on to direct, produce, choreograph & dance for dozens of theatre events, commercials & films in New York, Los Angeles & Seattle. As Rehearsal Director, Benson is responsible for casting & teaching a diverse group of 150 Oregonians a wildly creative line dance. Benson says, “I have the privilege of ushering Oregon into the international community of Le Grand Continental. To share this global, dance glory with my family & home state is a real thrill.” Benson's mother & twin brother will also be dancing with him. Local dance presenter White Bird is producing this special event as a way to thank the people of Portland for supporting them for 15 years. Le Grand Continental is slated for 2pm & 4pm performances on September 30th, 2012 at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Jamie Benson, proclaimed as “one of the strongest, hottest contemporary dancers of his generation" by dance critic Lewis Segal, is a professional dancer, choreographer & Alumnus of Cornish College of the Arts. Heralded as "Chaplin-like” by Back Stage West, Benson first garnered critical attention originating the role of “Eldon” in LATC’s Ovation award winning production of Shag with a Twist in 2005. Jamie Benson has also performed in the Film Rent, McDonald's Mario Art commercial, Rei Aoo's Dance Planet, on the television series Dance360 & as a member of the Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble.

Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Emard first distinguished himself as a dancer working with renowned choreographers such as Jean-Pierre Perreault, Jo Lechay & Louise Bédard before forming Sylvain Émard Danse, in 1990. A proponent of the commingling of genres, Sylvain Émard navigates with ease from one milieu to another – film, theatre, the visual arts & opera, as seen, for example by his collaboration on Lorin Maazel’s opera 1984, directed by Robert Lepage & presented on the celebrated stage of Covent Garden in London in 2005, & again at La Scala in Milan in 2008.

White Bird is committed to bringing the best Portland-based, regional, national, & international dance companies to Portland, Oregon & to fostering the growth of dance in the region. Each year they present 12 companies from around the world & commission new works from Portland-based choreographers.

For more information, photos & interviews, please contact Jamie Benson at 323-704-5287 or info@jamiebenson.com

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March 7, 2012 PRESS RELEASE
DANCE, ENTERTAINMENT, ART, COMMUNITY

Choreographer Presents Satirical Ballet “Bowel Movement” 

To Disgust & Delight Every Man, Woman & Child. 

Jamie Benson Brings the Entertainment & Fine Arts Communities Together While Carving Out a New Dance Niche.

NEW YORK, NY – Choreographer Jamie Benson & Fashion Designer Andrae Gonzalo present the satirical ballet Bowel Movement as part of Triskelion Arts’ 3rdAnnual Comedy in Dance Festival. Designed to confront one of the last taboos of man, Bowel Movement depicts a nightmarish dreamscape wherein a very refined lady battles her darkest fear, her own excrement. Frustrated with the Los Angeles dance scene, Benson recently moved to New York to carve out his own dance niche somewhere in between the realms of entertainment, fine art & experimental performance. This curated six-night festival will showcase 29 works by an arsenal of some of the funniest choreographers bringing on an assault of the goofy, daring, & not-so-serious sensibilities we all secretly crave. Detailed festival schedule at www.triskelionarts.org/comedy-in-dance-festival-2012

  • Title: “Bowel Movement” (as part of Triskelion Arts’ 3rd Annual Comedy in Dance Festival)
  • When: 8pm / Thursday, April 12th & Friday, April 13th, 2012
  • Where: Triskelion Arts Aldous Theater, 118 N. 11th St. 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11249
  • Cost: $15
  • Tickets / Reservations: info@triskelionarts.org

Jamie Benson, described as “one of the strongest, hottest contemporary dancers of his generation" by dance critic Lewis Segal, is a professional dancer, choreographer & Alumnus of Cornish College of the Arts. Benson first garnered critical attention originating the role of “Eldon” in LATC’s Ovation award winning production of Shag with a Twist in 2005. Back Stage West heralded Benson as “the most Chaplin-like” of this wordless production. Benson has also performed in the Film Rent, McDonald's Mario Art commercial, Rei Aoo's Dance Planet, on the television series Dance360 & as a member of the Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble. For more visit jamiebenson.com.

Freelance Fashion Designer, Costume Designer & Visual Artist Andrae Gonzalo first drew national attention as one of the memorable cast members from the 2nd season of Bravo's Project Runway. Today, he continues to design privately for individuals, garment manufacturers & theater events in Los Angeles & New York. Gonzalo also attended NYU's Tisch School of Arts for Theater & taught the Creative Design curriculum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. He speaks on that subject at colleges around the country. For more visit andraegonzalo.com.

Shannon Grant has performed throughout the United States & internationally with companies including Ballet de Printemps, City Ballet of San Diego, Ballet New England, Ballet Magique, Media City Ballet, David Taylor Dance Theater & in New York with BalaSole. She danced in the musical Shag With a Twist & music videos for Velvet Revolver & Avenged Sevenfold. Shannon trained with Marat Daukayev, Ruben Tonoyen & Hasmik Amirian. In New York, she continued her training with Kirill Matveev, at Steps & Ballet Arts. Shannon is also pursuing a Bachelor's degree in American Studies from Columbia University.

For more information, photos or interviews, contact Jamie Benson, Choreographer @ 323-704-5287 or info@jamiebenson.com.

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