Featuring new Smuin Ballet dancer – Ben Needham-Wood

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Ben in André Prokovsky’s The Three Musketeers
Photo by David Toczko, Lone Dakota Photography


Ben Needham-Wood grew up in a busy household in Massachusetts, and it was here that he learnt the value of friends and family and how special life can be when shared with others. Like many little brothers, Ben would watch his sister’s ballet class through the studio window, copying each move. The teacher noticed his enthusiasm and invited him to join his first class at age five.


Ben at age 5, dancing with his little sister, Lea


Ben continued with ballet classes as well as taking up jazz and tap as the years went by. But he didn’t stop at just dance, Ben attempted every activity under the sun including soccer, karate, swimming, hiking and fishing.







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Ben choreographing on Louisville Ballet dancers Erica De la O and Douglas Ruiz.
Photo by Peter Campbell.

However it wasn’t till 8th grade when Ben was accepted into the prestigious St. Paul’s School, that he begun to focus on ballet and academics. Ben trained long and hard under the direction of Rebecca Wright and Sharon Randolph and it paid off when he graduated with distinctions and three prestigious awards. These awards included the McLeod Prize (for contribution to the dance program) the Schlager Prize for Valor (for courage, strength of character, and a determination to succeed) and the Form of 1971 Visionary Award (for “originality, creativity, capacity for self-direction, and other immeasurable, often unheralded, qualities that have been a source of inspiration”).



With Natalia Ashikminha in Alun Jones’ Romeo and Juliet with Louisville Ballet. Photo by David Toczko, Lone Dakota Photography

Following his graduation Ben went on to study a BFA in ballet at University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. Whilst still studying Ben was offered a contract by the Louisville Ballet and because of Ben’s exceptional ability he was permitted to dance with the company whilst still studying at the University. After two years as a full time dancer and student, Ben graduated in 2010. He continued to dance for the Louisville Ballet for five seasons under the direction of Bruce Simpson. In this time Ben had the opportunity to work with a number of choreographers in a diverse range of performances, which enabled him to grow as a dancer and an artist. Some of Ben’s favorite roles include the title role in Alun Jones’s Romeo and Juliet and “Armand” in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias. Throughout his time with Louisville Ballet Ben made some lifelong friends that only added to his strong and loving support network.




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With Katherine Wells in Amy Seiwert’s Imagery
Photo by David DeSilva

Ben has also choreographed for a range of companies including Louisville Ballet, Appalachian Ballet Company, the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, Impact Dance Project, and the Louisville Ballet School’s Youth Ensemble. Choreography has become a real passion for Ben, who believes that dance and movement is a universal language and it’s something we as human beings all share at a primal level.



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Ben and his mother, Marjorie A. Needham

As a personal side note, Ben’s mother passed away in January 2013 after a long battle with inflammatory breast cancer.

“My mother was undoubtedly the single, greatest influence on my life. She believed that life was not about achieving perfection, but rather living to the fullest potential. I decided to move to San Francisco because I know that she would want me to challenge myself to exceed my own expectations. The dancers of Smuin Ballet are amazing, and the artistic guidance the company receives from its administration, teachers, and choreographers allows each dancer to continuously grow and mature. I miss my mother terribly, but I know that I am making her proud by joining a company that will stretch my limits and help me live to my fullest potential.”


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Ben with his father and siblings Toni, Lea, Peter Wood aka Dad, Ben, Drew) on a catboat in Cape Cod, MA









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