Benji Schwimmer (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Benjamin "Benji" Daniel Schwimmer (born on January 18, 1984) is an American professional dancer, choreographer and actor. On August 16, 2006 he was crowned "America's Favorite Dancer", as the winner of the second season of So You Think You Can Dance and has choreographed for both the U.S. and the international versions of the show. Benji artistically directs for LeAnn Rimes and Paula Abdul. He co-starred in the 2010 film Leading Ladies.
Benji is known for his versatility in mixing the arts of solo dance and partnering. He works for the non-profit group, Dancers Everywhere Making a Needed Difference (D.E.M.A.N.D). Benji is the songwriter, producer, and vocalist for pop-rock band The Weekend Forecast, who are signed with Executive Music Group.
Benji was born on January 18, 1984 in Newport Beach, California, and grew up in a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) household in Moreno Valley, California. He is the son of choreographer and West Coast Swing dancer Buddy Schwimmer. His mother, Laurie Schwimmer, and sister, Lacey Schwimmer, are also west-coast swing dancers.
He started competing when he was five years old. Some of his early experiences included singing and dancing in "Sunshine Magic", a children's troupe, that was later renamed "Newport Beach Showtime." His aunt, Vicki Groskreutz, was the choreographer, and he and cousin Heidi regularly showcased their swing talents at various shopping malls, theme parks, and fairs. He attended Landmark Middle school in Moreno Valley, in his eighth grade year the head of the televised morning announcements. He attended high school in both Moreno Valley (Valley View) and Redlands but then transferred to independent study because of his pursuit of dance. He finished his studies early, and then taught dance for one semester at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa.
Benji and his older cousin, Heidi Groskreutz, (the fourth finalist on the same season of So You Think You Can Dance), are also U.S. Open Showcase Swing champions in west-coast style. Schwimmer left the dancing scene at the top of his game to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He returned afterwards to the dance circuit. He founded D.E.M.A.N.D., a non-profit organization that helps the less fortunate and provides health care for dancers with HIV/AIDS and other illness, and is a co-owner of 5678 Dance Studio in Redlands.
Benji is also openly gay. He resigned from the church in 2011 due in part to the church's position on not allowing homosexuals to work with youth. He came out publicly in 2012 after struggling with his homosexuality for a number of years. The catalyst for his decision was the death by suicide of three gay friends.
So You Think You Can Dance 2006
After returning to the United States from Mexico, Benji learned that his promised sweetheart had broken up with him. He stated on the show that he had learned about this when he saw that his name was not on her wedding invitation. To combat the resulting depression, Benji returned to dancing. He was shown a video of the performance of Nick Lazzarini, the 2005 winner of So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), and decided that he would audition, along with Heidi and her former dance partner, Dmitry Chaplin, for the 2006 season of the show. All three were among top 10 finalists. Benji and his first dance partner, Donyelle Jones, successfully competed through the entire first part of the season without ever being in the bottom three. Both made it to the top four. Benji was named the winner on August 16, 2006.
During the course of the show, the judges routinely said that, while Benji was not necessarily the best technical dancer in styles other than his own, he was clearly an outstanding performer and entertainer.
The prizes for winning the competition included a car, a one-year contract to perform in Celine Dion's Las Vegas show, and $100,000 USD. However, in an interview for Seattle Times, Benji stated that he had turned down the Dion contract.
Starting in September 2006, Benji and the rest of the top-10 finalists performed in a North American tour (see So You Think You Can Dance (Season 2) for details). Most of the dates sold out within hours. Seattle sold out within 30 minutes and New York sold out within 11 minutes).
The following year, Benji was invited to perform on the opening of season three and to become the first SYTYCD alumnus to choreograph on the show. His west-coast swing choreography of a high-octane number, "The Rockafeller Skank," brought both the audience and the judges to their feet. Executive producer and head judge, Nigel Lythgoe, said that the piece finally invoked the magic that was lacking in the new season. The swing piece became a crowd favorite on the national tour in 2007.
Post So You Think You Can Dance
Benji and Heidi danced on Fox's New Year's Eve show and talked about their instructional dance DVD.
Benji began the year by filming Christina Aguilera's music video "Candyman" with his sister, Lacey. He played the role of the "Candyman".
Benji was extremely busy, in 2007, traveling, teaching, performing, competing, and hosting events. He visited locations all over the world, including Norway, Singapore, Toronto, Ottawa, and China. On some rare occasions, he went to events with other members of his family, including Heidi, Lacey, and Buddy. He taught, coast to coast, at many that featured many different dance styles, including west-coast swing. He also taught at many dance studios across the nation. He performed other dance styles, such as swing/jazz (SWAZZ).
Some of the events in which Benji performed included The Dance Floor TV show in Singapore, Mary Murphy's Champion Ballroom Academy's 17th Anniversary Party, Presentation of CTV Network lineup, iHollywood Dance, Coastal Dance Rage Workshop, FOX Reality Channel Really Awards 2007, The Laguna Dance Festival Gala, CanDance Conventions, and the Career Transition For Dancers Gala.
When SYTYCD season three auditions began, Benji partnered with Lacey during her audition in Los Angeles. When she was picked as one of the top-10 women, Benji and his parents attended almost every show. Benji danced on the first results show; at the end, he dropped his pants to reveal American-flag briefs. On July 8, Benji choreographed a west-coast swing number for Pasha and Sara. It was a huge hit with the audience and featured many of Benji's and Heidi's signature tricks. Benji was also tapped to be a correspondent reporter for the show, Reality Remix, on the FOX Reality Network.
By late summer, Benji and Heidi, as well as some of the biggest names in west-coast swing, were in Albuquerque, NM filming Love N' Dancing.
Benji appeared on week four of SYTYCD (Season 4) with Lacey as west-coast-swing choreographer for "Shake It," by Brother Yusef. Benji has choreographed routines for season one of So You Think You Can Dance Canada.
He has appeared on a Dancing with the Stars results show with Lacey. He recently filmed, and was a featured star in, the documentary, "MOVE," which was slated for an early 2009 release.
Benji reclaimed his titles as both US and World Swing Champion with new partner, Kellese Key, after being semi retired from competitive dancing. Benji and Alan Seawright wrote and produced a dance film that is set to be released in December 2010.
Benji continued to compete; he also taught at various conventions and schools around the world.
He finished a week long run as a guest performer and choreographer for "Evolutions of Dance 2009" in Provo, Utah.
Benji, along with partner, Torri Smith, performed to "La La Land," by Demi Lovato, as featured dancers on season eight of "Dancing With The Stars." Benji also appeared in the independent film, "Love N' Dancing," which stars Amy Smart.
He was the cover story in a 10-page spread in "Dancer Magazine", January 9 issue, which featured his own photography(CLK'd by BNJI)
Benji finished filming the comedy "Leading Ladies" as a co-star.
Paula Abdul hired Benji as her creative director and choreographer for her final performance on American Idol and her opening show for VH1's Divas:Live '09. He also danced alongside her in both performances.
Benji choreographed for So You Think You Can Dance: Canada, and was honored as being a creative force in his fusion of various dance styles.
Benji worked with his father, Buddy Schwimmer, to create choreography for the short program of American figure skater Jeremy Abbott, which was first performed at the 2011 Cup of China.
1991 US Open, Young America Div. (ages 6"11), 1st Place, partner Heidi Groskreutz