Ballet dancer

Ballet dancer who founded Charleston company arrested in husband’s shooting death | Local and national news

The founder of the short-lived Charleston-based American National Ballet was arrested last week and charged with killing her ex-husband.

Ashley Benefield, 28, has been charged with second degree murder in the September 27 shooting death of Doug Benefield, 58.

The couple, separated and living in Florida, have been embroiled in a custody battle over their daughter, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Benefield lived with his mother in the Central Park neighborhood of Bradenton, north of Sarasota. Her husband lived at a separate address. He was visiting Ashley when, during a domestic argument, the shooting occurred.

An arrest warrant specifies that four shots were fired, two of which hit him while he was being pushed back. Ashley Benefield ran to a neighbor and told her that Doug Benefield attacked her and she shot him, according to the warrant.

“Detectives found no evidence that she was acting in self-defense when she fired multiple shots at her husband,” the sheriff’s office said in A press release. “She claimed he was assaulting her, but detectives found no signs that she was physically assaulted.”

Benefield went to the county jail on November 3. The warrant also outlines his unsuccessful efforts to deny Doug Benefield access to their daughter, first by filing domestic violence complaints and then seeking a court injunction against him.

By 2017, the couple had moved to Charleston and assembled a team of top-notch ballet dancers and administrators to launch American National Ballet. The months-long venture was a dream come true for Ashley Benefield, a Maryland Youth Ballet graduate and former professional dancer. Her husband had worked in the defense and private equity industries but had little experience with dance organizations. He served as CEO and strove to get ballet off the ground.

The goal was to operate a non-profit ballet company and a for-profit school. A troupe was assembled of around 45 dancers, including veterans of the American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Complexions, Pennsylvania Ballet, Estonian National Opera and Phoenix Ballet . The team had also recruited Michael and Olga Wise, who ran the Charleston City Ballet (formerly Robert Ivey Ballet).

At the end of August of that year, Ashley Benefield took time off and retired to Florida.

About two months after the announcement of the ambitious project, the management team ran into difficulties and drastically reduced the size of their company of dancers, drawing intense scrutiny and criticism. The dancers who had moved to Charleston were mostly left to their fate.


American National Ballet of Charleston releases 23 dancers, plans additional changes

Furious, Benefield announced that she had left the project and took to social media to condemn the changes and the new direction.

“The dream and vision was to see beautiful dancers of all shapes, sizes, styles and colors dancing together,” she wrote in October 2017 on Facebook, where she also posted a public disavowal of the new company, saying she was “completely devastated by what was done and how it was done.

Doug Benefield tried to stabilize the company but quickly opted out, leaving Beth Bogush in charge.

In November, the dancer-choreographer Rasta Thomas filed a complaint for breach of contract. By 2018, nothing was left of the ballet business.

The rapid implosion of what was initially a promising new dance company in a city without a major ballet company revealed how difficult it can be to create a great arts organization from scratch.


Rasta Thomas, fired by American National Ballet, sues for damages