College years are about discovering who you are and what matters to you by trying new things, taking risks and giving things your best shot — even when it’s intimidating and uncomfortable.
Tyler Benson, a sophomore theater arts major from Colonia, New Jersey, has done just that. After taking a shot in the dark and trying out for Dance Extensions, Rowan’s contemporary dance company, he became president of the organization just one year later and has acquired a new passion in the process.
Benson spent his childhood and teenage years as a theater performer and a competitive swimmer. Going into college, he faced the tough decision of choosing which to follow and ultimately pursued performing arts.
“I just kept doing shows, constantly singing, dancing and acting — and now I go to school for it,” Benson said.
While Benson grew up on stage, his passion for dance came to him gradually, beginning with his musical theater roots.
“I always picked up on the choreography pretty quickly and everyone would always compliment my dancing and that was one thing that stood out when I was in a show,” Benson said.
After coming to Rowan, Benson began to explore dance outside the scope of musical theater and discovered a passion for other styles of dance and performing. In his freshman year, he auditioned for Dance Extensions on a whim after his friends encouraged him to try it out. He made the cut despite not having as much experience with dance outside of theater.
“I was so used to doing musical theater dance, so when I got to explore that whole new style of contemporary, modern, improvisation, I just fell in love with it. I was so used to telling a story by saying lines and singing but this just allows me to use my body and tell a story,” Benson said.
He notes that his transition from strictly being a theater performer to being a dancer didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t always come easily.
“I spend hours in the studio and any opportunity I have to rehearse and make myself better, I take it. I usually always say yes to things, any opportunity given I just take it because I feel like I’m the person who keeps pushing myself,” Benson said.
According to Benson, it’s never too late to learn something new as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort. He credits his progression to his own motivation and willpower.
While serving as president of the club, Benson is taking strides to further promote student work and choreography. This year Dance Extensions will have its first showcase exclusively for performances by its members held at Pfleeger Hall on Feb. 4.
Benson’s piece for the show, dedicated to the class of 2020 and the class of 2021, will take the audience through the phases of the Covid-19 pandemic. The show will also feature the works of Valentina Giannattasio about the Battle of Berlin and a Mario Kart-themed jazz piece by Jordyn Dauter.
“This is the first time I’m choreographing something that I’ve worked really hard on,” Benson said. “So I’m excited for it to actually be put up on stage.”
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