Benesh Dances to Russia

For six weeks of her summer, junior Kyra Benesh filled her days with dancing, sightseeing and navigating through a foreign country as a part of the dance program at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia with 15 other girls from the United States.

Before going to Russia, Benesh was accepted into the summer program of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet Academy and the Russian American Foundation. She then applied and received a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“I had to send in a video of me dancing first,” Benesh said. “I had to write two essays [about why I was interested in Russia] for them to consider me, and after that they checked my GPA to make sure I was qualified. I also had to get two recommendations, one from a teacher at school and one from a teacher at my dance studio. After that I had to go through a phone call with the Russian American Foundation, and then they  sent me an e-mail saying I got in.”

Although Kyra’s mother, Patti Benesh encouraged her to do this, she said she was still nervous about sending Kyra off to Russia.

“It was very exciting,” Patti Benesh said. “I was a little bit worried but I knew it was a well-run program and I wasn’t too concerned because she was used to being away from home [for other dance programs].”

Like her mom, Kyra Benesh’s friend junior Erin Youngblood found this opportunity bittersweet.

“I was excited for her and amazed that she was talented enough to make the cut,” Youngblood said. “It got lonely at times, not [being able to] talk her, but I knew she was working hard and having fun, [besides] I knew we’d be able to catch up when she got back. I would periodically  think about what she must be doing in Russia and anticipate the day she returned.”

While Kyra Benesh said she had fun in Russia, she and the other girls in the program found it difficult to adjust at first.

“[In Russia], they are not as technologically advanced as us,” She said. “They don’t have dryers and they don’t really have as many things as we do, like there’s no air conditioning. At first we were always complaining because it was so hot but then we got used to the lack of technology.”

According to Kyra Benesh, it also took some time to adjust to the language difference.

“You definitely couldn’t talk to people,” she said. “It was a problem at first when we were ordering stuff at restaurants and trying to find out where places were. Once we learned how to speak the language more, we could pick up things from
conversations people were having right next to us.”

Although the language and technology differences caused problems, Kyra Benesh said she enjoyed the different architecture and weather.

“There was this one really big, huge church there and the outside is pretty but then you go in and it is the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen,” She said. “It was really cool. The sun’s always shining and it’s really pretty. It’s not crazy like the American climate is. The clouds were so beautiful. I just had to take a picture because the clouds were always perfect.”

When she returned from Russia on Aug. 27, Kyra Benesh said her friends happily greeted her.

“It was pure happiness when she got back,” Youngblood said. “It was so good to see her home again and to be able to hang out and talk about her experience. I thought it was cool that she got to experience so many things that were different from here.”

Since Kyra Benesh’s experience, Patti Benesh said she has noticed a change in her.

“She seems confident and more mature having been on her own for quite a bit over there,” Patti Benesh said. “She just seemed older when she came back.”

Kyra Benesh’s dance teacher at the American Academy of Dance, Angela Jackson, said she also noticed changes in the way Kyra Benesh dances.

“She is more confident in her technique and stronger physically,” Jackson said. “The Russian Vaganova style is very athletic and Kyra has [the ability to] attain a future in the ballet world professionally. This was a very important step on that path.”