Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Shimmy Exclusive Interview- Benji Schwimmer

Photo: Twin Lens Photography

Shimmy: What have you been up to lately?

Benji: Well, I think I get that question everyday from at least someone who recognizes me when I'm out and about. I used to feel a pressure in answering every single detail before our paths finished crossing. Now, all I say is that I'm very busy. I'm working constantly, and I'm happy. So, I'm very busy, working constantly and I'm happy.

Shimmy: You choreographed a West Coast Swing routine on last seasons' SYTYCD and it was a big hit. How long have you been choreographing and what is that process like for you?

Benji: I've actually been choreographing and teaching dance professionally since I was 12. I have to be very inspired from the music or else I'd rather not waste my time in contriving a piece or a routine together. I download music constantly, and with that I find a choice song or two everyone once and a while where I HAVE to do something to it. I usually use my frustrations in my daily and personal life and put them all into my dancing or someone else's dancing. If I'm completely happy, I tend to find piece where I'm happy. If it calls for something dramatic or whatever emotion I need to convey, I just try and put myself dangerously in that specific place where I've felt that emotion before. I've been through a lot in my life both extreme highs and lows, so I find it very easy to relate to any kind of song, hence choreography is almost always a beautiful and personal experience.

Shimmy: Is there a genre of dance (outside your specialties) that you'd like to explore more?

Benji: Well, I'm a perfectionist. So in all, I truly believe that I'm constantly making DANCE in general my specialty. I've been exploring with various genres and training in them to open my facility and knowledge a bit more so as to be better all around. My new dances for this year are ballet and maybe exploring a bit of international Latin again. Let alone last year I've been focusing teaching and choreographing a lot more in the fields of jazz and swing and will continue to do so this year.

Shimmy: Where do you find your inspiration?

Benji: I'm passionate about dancing. I love it. I constantly thirst for more opportunities to learn, to create and to explore. I push myself because I know there's always someone more talented and more able...so I have to keep myself up and ahead. I made the decision to be a dancer. There's nowhere to go but up up up...and be the best I can be.

Shimmy: You have worked with some truly gifted people. Tell us about some of your more memorable experiences.

Benji: I have been very fortunate to have been blessed with two amazingly kind and wonderful parents, who I accredit more to them than anyone for raising me to be a decent person and dancer. Living with them and having studio time this year is still the best experience. I love coming back to my studio to get a lesson from my dad. Or having my mom see me dance and her giving a very honest opinion. They made me for crying out loud. and through them I know my cousin Heidi, my sister Lacey and my other dance examples undefeated world Latin champions, Donnie Burns and Gayor Fairweather. I'm actually being interviewed while I'm staying at Donnie's house in the UK as we speak today. I had the opportunity to do a show with them along with my parents when I was 12 and 13. A few months back we reunited to do another private show for a club of billionaires...and needless to say the pay was alright, but it pails in comparison to who I was sharing the with. It was truly an honor to be dancing alongside two of my living dance idols. It would be like a ballerina sharing the floor with Baryshnikov or a pop singer with Micheal. Too cool of an experience.

* Benji & Heidi's "Black Mambo" from season two of SYTYCD *

Video: maarit99

Shimmy: If you could trade places with someone outside of the dance world who would it be and why?

Benji: This may sound odd, but I would love to trade places with a pregnant woman. I feel like I'm still pretty young. I could always end up changing careers if I wanted to. I could always become almost anything in this life if I put my mind to it. But one thing I would never know is the feeling of having creation growing inside you. That would be pretty interesting I think.

Shimmy: Any guilty pleasures?

Benji: I've recently become a gym whore. Working out is wonderful for the body and mind and I'm seeing and feeling the effect. I actually did a show recently in Southport, England and wore a sleeveless costume. And no one made fun of me! At least i didn't hear it.

Shimmy: Flash forward ten years, what will you be doing?

Benji: In a perfect world I will be teaching my children how to dance.

Shimmy: What would you like your fans to know?

Benji: Nothing. I have a myspace...they find out nearly everything about me. I like keeping to myself and letting the dancing expose enough about me to them. I want to be respected as an artist, not a TV personality anymore. Don't get me wrong...I love my fans, I'm grateful for them. But respect and idolization are two very different things, and I prefer the latter.

Shimmy: Lastly, where will they see you next?

Benji: I'm flying around the world constantly....teaching choreographing performing, heck even acting a bit now. I have a movie or two in the works, but mostly I really love dancing. I've had some crazy offers lately to make a lot of money, but I've turned them down in order to continue to do what I want to master more than any other thing. Visit my new website www.gobenji.com

Shimmy Video Pick

* Benji and Travis Wall "Gyrate" on SYTYCD *

Viedo: maarit99

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't realize he was so arrogant. I liked him on the show.

February 5, 2008 at 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't find him arrogant. I see someone who has finally found his confidence. On the show, he lacked faith in himself so I'm glad he found that confidence in his craft. Continue doing what you do Benji, I am a huge fan.

February 5, 2008 at 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But respect and idolization are two very different things, and I prefer the latter."

Typo I hope.

I respect him as a swing dancer and for choreographing that swing piece last season on SYTYCD. But I hope he respects the other genres of dance and refrains from showing off his 'skills' prematurely. Keep the training in class instead of showing off sloppy techniques in front of uninformed audience.

February 5, 2008 at 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the ways to gain respect (aside from earning it) is to respect those around you.

February 5, 2008 at 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He definatly sounds arrogant now.

February 5, 2008 at 8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because someone isn't kissing everyone's behinds do not make them arrogant. We always try to label someone who is confident as arrogant. People heaped the same stigma on Danny, it was wrong then and it is wrong here. Nothing in that interview showed he lacked respect for others. He came off straight forward and honest. He loves the fans but at the end of the day he wants his own life. I respect that.

February 5, 2008 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Selly said...

Can someone clarify this-
In his MySpace blog, Benji said he was staying in his cousin's fiancee's house while in the UK. Now he's saying he's staying at Donnie Burns's house while in the UK. So b saying these, is he implying that Heidi is marrying Donnie Burns? Because if he is... eew.

February 6, 2008 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger kate said...

I was a big fan of Benji in the 06 season, I must say that I was fairly disappointed by his projected "attitude" when I came across his myspace. He came across as arrogant, and entitled.

Having said that-I think Benji is a good person with his heart in the right place, and I think this stems more from poor communication, than the fact that they actually more big-headed than the average person with their respective degrees of "celebrity". You can be honest, and still come across as humble, and showing respect to your fans. Having a big bitch about your life and how fans treat you, and then following it up with "oh, don't get me wrong, I know I am blessed to have fans" does not come across in a nice way. Same with complaining that an interviewer is asking you the same old questions over and over...the interviewer is not asking you these questions to entertain you, they are asking what the casual readers coming across their publication may want to know, and just doing their job.

Basically-I think he just needs to start being a bit more media-savvy.

February 7, 2008 at 10:49 AM  

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