Jazz dancer, choreographer
Pepsi Bethel, jazz dancer and choreographer, died Aug. 30 in the Bronx from a heart attack. He was 83.
He founded the Pepsi Bethel Authentic Jazz Dance Theater in the 1960s and honed dancers’ steps for the cakewalk, boogie, calypso, Lindy, Charleston and many others.
Born Alfred Bethel in North Carolina, he was nicknamed by his grandmother after his favorite soft drink. As a young dancer, he perfected Lindy Hop steps at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Before founding his own troupe, he performed with the Mura Dehn Jazz Ballet and other companies. In 1969, the Bethel and Dehn companies were chosen by the State Department to perform in nine African countries as cultural emissaries.
Bethel worked as a consultant and choreographer on several shows directed by Vernel Bagneris, including two productions of “One Mo’ Time,” the 1987 “Staggerlee” and 1994’s “Jelly Roll!” In 1980, his work as a choreographer was honored in “Celebration of Men in Dance” at the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center in Brooklyn. Four years later, he staged the revue “An Evening With Charles Cook and Friends” at Aaron Davis Hall and was a production consultant for 1987’s “Sing Hallelujah!” at the Village Gate.
No immediate family members survive.