The Benyon sisters are ‘just dancing’ their way through life.

Francesca Fox

After waking up early, applying a full face of makeup, styling their hair and driving two hours, senior Skye Benyon and junior Jenna Benyon arrive at the dance competition they spent countless hours preparing for. Skye may shake with nerves for her ballet solo while Jenna shows no sign of anxiety for her jazz piece. Unlike other siblings, their shared commitment to competitive dance gives them a unique opportunity to spend a large amount of their free time supporting one another. 

Growing up in Sydney, Australia, the Benyon sisters began taking preparatory ballet classes at the age of three and have been dancing together ever since. In 2008, their family moved to California because of their dad’s work, returned to Australia in 2011 and moved back to Marin in 2014. Skye believes the extra time she spends with her sister at dance helped her through the difficult transitions that came with moving.

“Moving countries is really hard, and doing it three times was not fun,” Skye said. “It definitely was easier having a person [close to my age] who was [also] going through it that I could spend a lot of time with.”

Almost immediately after both times they moved to Marin, Jenna and Skye enrolled at Just Dance Academy (JDA) in San Rafael. They currently take ballet, contemporary, jazz and pointe classes, in addition to being a part of JDA’s competitive dance team which competes three times a year. While they have normal dance classes throughout the week, they dedicate an additional six hours on Saturdays preparing for competitions.

According to their dance teacher and choreographer Jenna Jones, dancing on a competitive team requires a more intense dancer because they are held to a higher standard.

 “We hold auditions specifically for competition [dance], and we do expect dancers to have a very strong level of technique,” Jones said. “They also need to have a very strong work ethic because we allow zero to minimal absences for the competition rehearsals.”

Jones says that dance teachers strive closer towards perfection with their competition dancers because judges notice the subtle mistakes in performances non-dancers might miss.

“When we have our regular dance recitals, [the students are] performing for family and friends, but when you go to competition, all of the [judges and] people in the audience are dancers,” Jones said. “They know exactly what it means if you’re sickling your foot or if the timing is slightly off.”

Because of this added pressure, competitions can sometimes be an intimidating and stressful experience for Skye and Jenna. 

 “Competitions are kind of terrifying, not going to lie,” Skye said. “What scares me, personally, is the fear of letting myself down, doing worse than I know I could, letting down my teachers [and] letting down my friends in a group piece.”

While competitions can be scary for Skye, Jenna feels less intimidated because she considers JDA’s team less competitive than others.

“I used to have anxiety as a child, but now I don’t get scared backstage,” Jenna said. “I feel better seeing Skye, but I don’t really get nervous anymore [because] nobody really cares [about winning]. I’m just there for the experience.”

When it comes to feeling anxious during competitions, having each other eases some of the stress.

“If I’m backstage, it really helps to see and hug [Jenna],” Skye said. “Just [knowing] that she’s there and that she supports me grounds me and makes me feel calm.”

Freshman Luca Bernardini has danced at JDA with the Benyon sisters for five years. According to Bernardini, they have been a vital part of the competitive team.

“Jenna is loud and does more hard-hitting jazz dances, and Skye is quiet and does more ballet,” Bernardini said. “They [both] are so encouraging and supportive. They support everybody and scream for everybody in a good way.”

Similarly, Jones finds that their differences contribute to the team’s dynamic.

“Skye’s strengths are classical ballet and contemporary, and she’s relatively quiet in class: very respectful and very focused. She’s just a super easy-going, great student,” Jones said. “Jenna is great in a different way. I would say her strength is jazz. She’s always the first person cheering other people on [and is] wild and fun.”

With the second semester of her senior year underway, Skye has decided she wants to find a way to take dance classes in college but does not intend to major in dance. In the meantime, Skye and Jenna will savor the last few months they have left dancing together.