2016 Scholarship Recipient

Bentlei Benak, Overland Park, KS
Attending: American Musical and Dramatic Academy
Hometown Studio: Priscilla and Dana’s School of Dance, North Kansas City, MO

Q: How are you involved in dance these days?

Currently, I am attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City as a dance major. I’m dancing all day every day and loving every second of it! I’m also taking full advantage of the city and am taking classes at Broadway Dance Center and Steps. I also attend the Radio City Rockette intensive every summer!

Q: How did your dance training help you as you entered college/university?

My dance training not only sculpted me into the dancer I am today, but it made me the person I am today. Having the privilege of dancing for 17 years has helped me learn to have confidence in everything I do. When auditioning for colleges, it’s easy to be intimidated by everyone in the room. But my home studio taught me to embrace my flaws. They taught me not to fit in when I was born to stand out. And they taught me that if I really want something, I have to prove how hard I would fight to get it. None of this would be possible without everything I learned back in Kansas City. I owe it all to that beautiful place I call home!

Q: Who most inspires you?

My mother, Beth, is my biggest inspiration. I thank her for this huge heart for dance I have. Without her putting in my first pair of ballet shoes, who knows where I would be right now. She taught me my first dance class and taught me my final dance private before sending me off to New York City. My mom is constantly motivating me to be better, she always has my back, and she loves me with her whole heart. And that is more than I could ever ask for.

Q: What are some favorite memorable moments from your dance competition experience?

My favorite memories from competing happened back stage just moments before my best friends and I walked under the stage lights. We would huddle up, we were so close we could feel all of our bodies shaking with nerves and excitement. We would pray and give what seemed to be the best motivational pep talks I’d ever heard. We shouted last minute corrections and told each other that no matter what happened on that stage, we loved each other. And if we do our best, that’s all that matters. No matter how nervous I was, it was at that moment that I was comforted because I wasn’t in this alone. I was experiencing the best years of my life with my best friends. Dancing with them was truly my biggest blessing.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring younger dancers?

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t follow your dreams. You’re never too little to do something. You’re always good enough. And if you do something that lights your soul on fire, don’t let it burn out. Smile, be happy, and chase your dreams because if you do, you will be living your best life!

Do you have hobbies or other creative outlets besides dance?

If I’m not inside of a dance studio, you can find me atop a rock in Central Park writing. My best way of expressing myself is dancing, but sometimes I face situation in life that not even dance can heal. Ill stand in front of a mirror and I find myself unable to move. So I write about it. Because my mind never stops running. I find writing therapeutic because it gets all of my thoughts out of my head and onto paper. I ramble on for hours sometimes and by then end I might as well bind it and make it a novel. But it makes me feel good, and life is all about finding the things that make you most happy.