Dancer Brenna Benson wins ‘So You Think Kent Has Talent’ competition

Brenna Benson, a 15-year-old dancer, won the inaugural "So You Think Kent Has Talent" competition Saturday night at the Kent-Meridian High School Performing Arts Center.

Brenna Benson

Brenna Benson

Brenna Benson, a 15-year-old dancer, won the inaugural “So You Think Kent Has Talent” competition Saturday night at the Kent-Meridian High School Performing Arts Center.

Judges picked Benson, a Kentlake High School sophomore, over the 14 other finalists at the show who had advanced two weeks ago from a field of 50 contestants.

“I was super shocked,” Benson said about taking the title. “There were so many talented people.”

Benson performed a lyrical dance entitled “District Sleeps Tonight,” choreographed by Ann Frost. Benson has trained at the Allegro Performing Arts Academy in Kent for 11 years.

“It’s my getaway,” Benson said about dancing. “It feels so good when I’m dancing. I have a passion for dance and want to be dancer whether I join a ballet company or on Broadway or something with dance.”

For winning the title, Benson received a grand prize of $1,000.

“That was shocking,” Benson said of the cash. “I’m not sure. I’ll safe some for a car or pay for tuition for dance.”

Five finalists each in the divisions of Youth, Teen and Adult competed for the grand prize.

Vocalist Mackenzie Visser, 15, a freshman at Kentlake, took second place overall and $500 with her rendition of “Green Finch and Linnet Bird,” from the musical production “Sweeney Todd.”

Vocalist Brenna Kay O’Farrell, 16, a Kentridge sophomore, placed third overall and won $250. She sang a rendition of the Taylor Swift song “Back to December.”

Ten-year-old vocalist Maria-Victoria Kovalsky won the Audience Pick award. A fourth-grade student at Kent Mountain View Academy, Kovalsky sang “Pie Jesu.” She will receive pizza for a year from Papa John’s and earned a $100 certificate to Portrait Innovations, $50 cash from Allegro Performing Arts Academy and a $25 McClendons Hardware Gift card. The crowd could pay $1 per vote to pick their favorite performer.

The division winners, who received $100 each, were pianist Chloey Chae, 11, in the Youth category; Benson in the Teen division; and vocalist James Bacher in the Adult division. Chae played “Mozart Variations KV 265.” Bacher sang a rendition of the Martina McBride song “In My Daughter’s Eyes.”

More than 200 people attended the show and more than $3,000 was raised for Kent Youth and Family Services. That $3,000 includes $1,017 raised through audience votes for their favorite performer. Local sponsors paid for the cash prizes.

“The show was a huge success for its first time and we are already planning on the second annual event,” said show organizer Tonya Goodwillie in an email. “It truly exceeded all expectations. It went very smoothly and was so amazing to have our community come together to support both the talented contestants and Kent Youth and Family Services.”

Steve Strachan, a former Kent Police Chief and now the chief deputy of the King County Sheriff’s Office, served as master of ceremonies.

“He was a perfect choice for us for our master of ceremonies,” Goodwillie said. “He brought his humor and wit to the stage and also spoke with each of the contestants after they performed in order for the audience to get to know the performers even more.”

The judges included Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke; Debbie Theisen, campus manager at Kent-Meridian High; Ronda Billerbeck, city of Kent cultural programs manager; Bill Boyce, Kent School Board president; Polly Shepherd, Kent Reporter publisher; and Debbie Ranniger, a Kent City Councilwoman.

“All the contestants performed fabulously and the judges truly had some tough choices to make,” Goodwillie said.

The six winners have been invited to perform June 18 at the Kent International Festival at Town Square Plaza; July 4 at the Fourth of July Splash at Lake Meridian Park; and July 8 at Kent Cornucopia Days. They also are invited to be in the Kent Cornucopia Parade on July 10.


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