I'm a dance artist and educator, and I make ensemble works for a small group of dancers. I am also associate professor of dance at Alma College. Before that I was the Mellon Foundation Choreographer-in-Residence for Lafayette College's Choreographers on Campus initiative. And for a briefer bio, go here.
I'm from Brooklyn, NY, where I grew up in an educated, middle-class Sicilian/Irish family. My arts-minded Park Slope parents encouraged their children to paint, write, draw, dance, play musical instruments, act, and sing. I currently live in Brooklyn, about a block from the hospital where I was born.
The story is that my mother discovered me dancing before I could walk—holding onto the radiator for support as I bounced to the music on the radio. When I was seven years old, Mom enrolled me in tap lessons, because I wanted to dance like this. But I hated tap, largely because I was conspicuous as the class's only boy. At nine, I began studying classical piano, which I pursued doggedly and with fear of the guilt I might feel about disappointing my parents if I ever quit. They and their friends seemed to especially like when my brother and I played Bach's two-part invention No. 8 (F major) on the banjo and piano, respectively.
In elementary and middle school I was known for my ability to mimic teachers, and sometimes I was suddenly booked at impromptu front-of-class shows or large school assemblies. I was funny and usually got the big laughs. I also worked alone in my room for many hours, makingstop-animation films using my father's 8mm camera and my Star Wars action figures. I vacillated from popular to lonely.
During my high school years, I would spend memorable Saturday nights dancing at infamous NYC clubs, like the Mud Club, Danceteria, Area, and Studio 54 (after its heyday). I was underage, but no one seemed to care. My sister, who studied daily at the American Ballet Theatre school, taught me ballet in our family's backyard and living room. In my late teens I began formal study of ballet and modern dance. I stopped studying classical piano after my first year in college, with neither guilt nor regret, though a deep understanding and appreciation of musical structure and theory remained.
An early member of the Doug Elkins Dance Company, I was interested in choreography that combined disparate movements and styles. I met Lisa Wheeler while apprenticing with master teacher Dan Wagoner's dance company, and we began creating dances and performing them at small venues in downtown Manhattan. My resulting company, Ben Munisteri Dance Projects, toured to many venues around the U.S. and internationally.
I was an artist in residence at some notable places like Joyce SoHo, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Celebrate Brooklyn festival, and the defunct Dance Theater Workshop. I've been presented by many groups and festivals, including the main stages of the Joyce Theater, Jacobs' Pillow, Central Park SummerStage, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. I'm the recipient of many grants, commissions, and residencies, including awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the National Performance Network, and the National Dance Project. Many writers from estimable publications have said very nice things about my work.
I've been a guest artist/teacher at many colleges and festivals, including Stephens College, Rutgers University, Lafayette College, Juniata College, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, University of California Santa Cruz, Florida Dance Festival, Bates College, Wayne State University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Indiana University. Some memorable master classes include the ones I taught at the Jacob's Pillow School, the Milwaukee Ballet, Montclair State University, Winona State University, the South Carolina Dance Alliance, and the High School for Creative and Performing Arts (Cincinnati). My work has been performed by college students on many ACDFA programs.
I've held faculty positions too: Hofstra University (technique), Manhattanville College (repertory), Adelphi University (I was a contract researcher and also taught Dance History & Criticism), and Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts, where I taught Choreography 2, Performance and Digital Technology, Advanced Repertory, Seeing Performance, and Writing About the Performing Arts (I taught this last course to inmates at the now-closed Arthur Kill Correctional Facility). I was a visiting assistant professor of dance at the University of South Florida, where I taught technique and dance history and set my choreography on undergraduate dance majors.
I have an M.F.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, where I studied choreography, visual art, and intersections of art and spirituality. I also have a masters degree from NYU's Steinhardt School of Education, where I choreographed one of the first bicoastal telematic dance performances through multi-channel Internet 2 reciprocal connections. I graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in English and a minor in Dance. Before that I went to NYC's Stuyvesant High School.