Jacqueline Benson

Fall 2023

Vice President of American Ice Theatre // Director of AIT Phoenix

PSA Master Rated Coach & Choreographer

Contemporary Skating Artist 

Q:  What age did you start skating and how old are you now? 

A:   I started skating when I was four years old, and I am 25 now! 

Q:  Why did you start skating? What made you interested in skating?

A:   My parents put me in skating lessons as a child because they, and I quote, “didn’t want to spend their time in the 110 degree weather watching me play soccer”. I’m so glad that they didn’t want to deal with the Arizona heat because I truly can’t imagine my life without skating. From the moment I stepped foot on the ice, I absolutely loved it. It just felt like home from such an early age. 

Q: What do you like most about skating? 

A:  The ability to glide, to move freely, and to express myself in a way that I can’t any other way. When I’m skating I feel most like myself. When I’m improvising and letting it all flow out of me, it’s where I can just exist without all of the other noise. Skating, especially contemporary skating, gives me an outlet to be creative and to experiment with all different types of movement. It is so interesting to explore all the different ways we can use skating to tell impactful stories.

Q: How does skating help you in your daily life? 

A: Skating quite literally takes up the vast majority of my daily life! I am either skating professionally on tour or coaching / choreographing when I am home in Phoenix. So much of who I am has been shaped by my relationship with skating. It has taught me to work hard, persevere, bounce back when life doesn’t go to plan, and that true success is defined by trying your best. It has also taught me that there are so many different paths on the ice, and in life, and by staying true to yourself you will  find what is meant for you. I feel so lucky that I get to spend my time sharing my love of skating with the next generation and using the art from to create meaningful performance work. 

Q: How has figure skating contributed to your overall physical and mental health? 

A: Skating has impacted my physical and mental in both positive and negative ways. Like most things, it is all very nuanced. The mental and physical strength required to be a skater is unparalleled, and it has given me incredible fortitude. It is great to stay active and move your body while doing something that is fun, and the life lessons that skating teaches have helped to teach me resilience, the importance of having a good attitude, and how to be mentally tough through the ups and downs. On the flip side, skating was a substantial component of my struggles with multiple eating disorders while I was a competitive athlete. There is immense pressure in the sport to conform to a very specific beauty standard, and thinness is assumed to be linked to athletic success. The environment and culture around food and body image can be very toxic at times, especially for young athletes who are not aware that these attitudes are harmful. I didn’t have anything to do with skating for four years due to these factors, but after returning with a much more positive relationship to myself & my body I now feel like skating makes both my physical & mental health better. 

Q: What is/are your favorite element(s) in skating? 

A:  I have so many favorites, it’s hard to narrow it down! My favorite traditional skating moves are a layback spin, “Sasha” or “I” spin, double flip, and a big Michelle Kwan-esque spiral. I love experimenting will all kinds of new contemporary skating tricks, but I especially love slides, a squat spread eagle, and playing around with interesting ways to use the boards. 

Q: How has being a part of American Ice Theatre impacted your skating journey? 

A: I quite literally would not have anything to do with skating if not for American Ice Theatre. All my time growing up in the sport, I had dreamed of a space in skating that is exactly what AIT creates. A place where skaters are seen as people first, where creativity and community are valued above all else, where it’s safe to show up exactly as you are. When I first came across AIT, I hadn’t put my skates on in four years, and when a friend asked me to skate in a piece that she was doing for AIT’s choreography certification course, I truly can’t believe that I said yes. She told me about AIT and I truly felt like this was something I HAD to be involved with. If this existed, then I thought maybe I could come back to skating since there was a place where I could show up as myself and do what I had always loved. After getting connected with AIT, the rest is history and one thing has led to another from that moment on to get me to where I am in my career. 

Q: What were your favorite skating career moments? 

A: I am currently a professional skater with Montreal-based contemporary skating company, Le Patin Libre. I am also a PSA Master-Rated Coach and PSA Senior-Rated Choreographer. Some of my notable performance engagements include the Opening Ceremonies of the 2023 FISU World University Games, Tanzfestival Rheinmain, Theatre de la Ville Paris, Danse Danse Montreal, the American Contemporary Skating Festival, and numerous other local shows. I have my USFS Triple Gold Medal in Freestyle, Moves in the Field, and Solo Free Dance, and I have competed at the regional and collegiate level. During my competitive skating career, I was the two-time recipient of the Sylvia Friedman Award for most outstanding Freeskate performance at Cactus Classic, and qualified for Final Round at Regionals at the Intermediate - Junior levels. Upon graduation from high school, I also received the US Figure Skating Gold Level Achievement Award.