Charles Bennett, 68, the principal choreographer of the San Diego-based California Ballet for the past 25 years, died Dec. 27 of cancer at his home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Bennett gave the Southern California arts community such innovative and macabre ballets as "Dracula," which he created for the company's 20th anniversary in 1987, and milder fare such as the fairy tales "Snow White" and "Alice in Wonderland."
Bennett's first project for California Ballet, "Albinoni Adagio" in 1974, went on to win gold and silver medals in choreography at Tokyo's Ballet Concours two years later.
A native of Chicago, Bennett began his ballet career as a dancer with the Chicago Opera Ballet.
He later worked as a principal with the American Ballet Theatre in New York City and also performed with the New York City Ballet.
In 1961, Bennett founded his own private company, First Chamber Dance, in New York.
He moved it to Seattle in 1974, and disbanded it five years later.
Bitter about the struggle for foundation and government grants to support dance, Bennett took a year off to operate a resort in Tahiti.
But he was soon back at work, spending about three months a year working in San Diego and also choreographing for ballet companies in Eugene, Ore., and Wenatchee, Wash.
Bennett was also involved throughout his career in several Broadway shows and such television productions as "Hallmark Hall of Fame" and "The Bell Telephone Hour."