J. Samaniego; Choreographer and Dancer

Jorge Samaniego, the Cuban-born dancer and choreographer whose stagings of "A Christmas Carol," "Peter and the Wolf" and "The Nutcracker" proved local favorites over the past several years, has died.

He was 40 and died Wednesday at County-USC Medical Center of AIDS, said his colleague and longtime companion, Kenneth MacDonald.

Samaniego started and ended his dance career in Los Angeles, studying here as a youth at the American School of Dance before moving to New York City.

There he danced both on and off Broadway, appeared with the New York City Opera Ballet and formed his own company, the Samaniego Dance Gallery. He also performed with the Western Ballet, Netherlands Dance Theater and Milwaukee Ballet while choreographing for the Puerto Rican Dance Theater and the Des Moines (Iowa) Ballet.

In 1981 he choreographed and was seen as Mercutio in a Public Broadcasting System telecast of "Romeo and Juliet." Samaniego returned to Los Angeles in 1984 and re-formed his Dance Gallery which was seen regularly at the Assistance League Playhouse in Hollywood and on other local stages.

A memorial service will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Victor's Catholic Church in West Hollywood.

In lieu of flowers, MacDonald suggests contributions to AIDS Project Los Angeles.

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