Interviews with Sydney Duby and Dakota Schantz, THTC Graduates
Sydney Duby is a recent graduate of The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts. Duby recently finished high school at Marianapolis Preparatory School and is preparing for her next chapter at the Boston Conservatory. As a stellar THTC student, Duby shares her dance experience and how the conservatory shaped her into the performer she is today.
THTC: Do you mind telling me about your dance and theatre experience, from an early age to now?
Sydney: I started off at three or four years old doing competitive dance with the standard styles of ballet, jazz and tap. And I really enjoyed that aspect of my life. I feel like it gave me a good foundation for the styles that I enjoy doing today. After I’d done more musicals and plays, I decided to join the conservatory because I wanted to continue a little bit of my theatre side while also building my technique and artistry within ballet. I wanted to be able to stand out as a dancer. I joined the youth summer program which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was able to get a taste of dance, while also getting to perform through singing and acting. Even though that is something I enjoy doing, it can be a little intimidating when I’m with people that are mostly specialized in singing and acting. That was a good experience for me and exposed me to some other facets of performing that I could potentially go into. After joining the conservatory, I first started off with a lot of ballet and then a little improv. But this past year I focused on a lot of jazz, contemporary, modern and partnering, which is something fun that I never got to do before.
THTC: So, when do you think you realized that you wanted to pursue a career in dance?
Sydney: I would definitely say once I decided to go from competitive dance to conservatory training is when I realized I wanted more than just the show that dance can be sometimes. More than just, ‘Oh, I want an award for this.’ I really wanted to dive into my training and how much I could push myself as a dancer. Once I joined the conservatory, my mindset was focused on wanting to get better at ballet, connecting with people and dancing with others. This was so I could build the connections to becoming a professional dancer.
THTC: Do you feel like the conservatory solidified that passion for you?
Sydney: Yes, definitely. And Ms. Jen, as well. I started talking to her when I was a sophomore, and she was always there to help me with any questions that I had about going into this industry and going to college. I had a great resource that I could talk to, and I know I would be able to do the same with any of the teachers.
THTC: What are some of the ways in which you feel like the conservatory has helped you grow, not only just as a dancer, but as a performer?
Sydney: I was part of the conservatory when everyone went into quarantine. So, I didn’t get to do any of the performance opportunities then. But this past year and the year before that, I was able to participate in Peter and the Wolf and Hansel and Gretel, which involves a lot of acting. It’s more about being able to convey a story. I was able to use that acting training that I had from the youth summer program and implement it into my dancing there. That made it a smooth experience and made me feel like I was doing more than just dancing; I was able to tell a story.
THTC: What is one of your favorite memories at the conservatory?
Sydney: I would definitely say that one of my favorite memories has been The Nutcracker this past year. As a little kid, I always dreamt of having a principal role. And the role that always stuck out to me was the Russian principal. I could have never imagined that not only would I get to do that role my senior year, but I would also get to do it with a male Russian partner. It was absolutely amazing. I also performed as a Russian attendant for two years, so I got a full circle moment there. Also, I loved getting to be within snow corps and flower corps. For a long time, I didn’t feel like I was as strong in my pointe technique as I could have been. Getting to do those roles was a solidification of how much my technique has improved over my time at the conservatory. It showed that they really did see potential in me.
THTC: It’s really nice once you’ve been working so hard, and then you finally see it pay off. You feel validated by the people around you.
THTC: What is in store for you in the future, now that you’re graduated and no longer part of the conservatory?
Sydney: I’m really excited to be going to Boston Conservatory for their new Commercial Dance BFA. Some people might be apprehensive of a new program, but I’m excited to see what’s in store for it. I did their summer program there, and I fell in love with the school after that. But I want to keep everything open. And that’s why I think a Commercial Dance program is really perfect for me because I will learn how to be a backup dancer for someone on tour, or dive into Broadway styles or commercial and film work. I’m just really looking forward to working in the commercial field.
THTC: That’s amazing. Thank you for chatting with me.
Sydney: Thank you.
Dakota Schantz is a recent graduate of The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts. Schantz recently finished high school at The Keystone School and is a Sturbridge, MA native. As a stellar student at THTC, Schantz shares her theatre experience and how THTC shaped her into the performer she is today.
THTC: Please tell us what your theatre experience has been, from an early age to now?
Dakota: So, it all started when I saw a show when I was four years old, and I was really intrigued by it. I asked my mom if I could do a show. She told me, “Let’s wait a little bit. And let’s return to the conversation once you start school.” Because what does a four-year-old know? Then I started kindergarten, and I asked her again, and she said, “Oh, you’re serious about this.” Luckily, in my town, Sturbridge, there was a theater right in my backyard. They had so many youth shows and adults shows, as well. My first show was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was a little Oompa Loompa– it actually helped me learn to read! I really struggled with that in school but memorizing and word recognition really stuck with me because I was memorizing lines. And that’s when the bug hit me. Ever since I’ve been doing theatre. I went from there for a few years, and then I started dance classes and voice lessons. After I got as much education and knowledge from my resources in and around my town, we started exploring outer educational places like The Hanover Theatre and places in Boston, as well, so I could get more experience and further my education. I wanted to do the youth summer program for so long, but I wasn’t old enough. Then in 2016 they started their pre-teen program. I was able to do Shrek Jr, and that was the first pre-teen program that had ever happened. After that, I fell in love with THTC. I came back the following year for their teen summer program and did Guys and Dolls and Beauty and the Beast the following year. Then that school year is when I signed up for conservatory classes for the first year. I started with ballet and continued with that for a few years. I continued doing the youth summer program. Then this past year I was invited into the youth acting company and took classes in voice, acting and dance.
THTC: So, was there a moment when you realized that you wanted to pursue a career in theater?
Dakota: I’ve always loved performing and the feeling you get when you share your art with an audience. But a pivotal moment in my childhood was when I saw Finding Neverland at the Boston Opera House. I was just overcome with so much emotion, and it was the first time I was transported watching people perform and tell a story. I thought, ‘This is it. This is what I need to do with the rest of my life.’
THTC: Has being a part of the conservatory helped you know what you want to do? Has it helped solidify that this is your passion?
Dakota: Absolutely. THTC has helped me realize that no matter when in your journey you start something, as long as you are dedicated, motivated and work really hard to achieve a goal, it doesn’t matter when or where you start; you can accomplish anything. I came into dance late. That was something I was really self-conscious about, and I never felt worthy of being in a dance class. So, when I was able to find their teen beginner ballet class, I felt so safe. It made me realize that I deserve to be in a dance class. This past year with college auditions and being taught choreography on the spot, the musical theatre training from the summer programs mixed with the ballet training from the year-round classes I took at THTC made me so aware of everything that was being thrown at me. I was able to absorb everything. One school, the school that I actually committed to, had a professor that told me, “You were so incredible to watch. Watching you dance brought us so much joy. Have you been studying for a long, long time? You look like such a technical dancer.” And I thought, “Me, really?” That experience mixed with how much growth I’ve made in just four years of ballet makes me feel secure in myself. I hate to say this, but I feel like I’m now deserving of calling myself a dancer. I hate that there was a time where I didn’t even feel deserving of calling myself that. But Ms. Jen and the dance department have made me feel so confident in myself no matter what room I go into.
THTC: It’s obvious THTC has made you a lot more confident in yourself and made you feel a lot more worthy. What is one of your favorite memories or moments from your time at the conservatory?
Dakota: That’s so difficult, but I have to say, last summer the Youth Summer Program did Oklahoma. It was my first time performing on a stage since the pandemic happened. I auditioned that day, and I felt really confident and proud of myself. I knew that no matter what happened I was going to be okay. Then the cast list went out that night, and I got the lead role in Oklahoma. I remember looking up the cast list, and I just couldn’t believe it. I fell to the ground, and I started bawling my eyes out. The fact that I was able to play my first lead in a place that I call home surrounded by so many people that have supported me for years– I’m getting emotional thinking about it! It’s been a goal I have been chasing for as long as I can remember. It was just such an incredible way to return back to the stage in front of an audience.
THTC: What is in store for you in the future now that you are no longer technically a conservatory student?
Dakota: This fall, I’ll be starting my musical theater BFA at Nazareth College. I hope to graduate and conquer that new school. After that, I would love to book a Broadway show or a national tour. One of my biggest goals is to book a national tour and have them stop at THTC because I think that’d be such a cool, full circle moment. I’d like to teach a master class at THTC, too. My goal is to make the arts more accessible to everybody because, unfortunately, it is expensive. I would love to bring the arts to more people and educate the next generation of performers like THTC has done for me.
THTC: That’s amazing. Thank you for sitting down and talking with me.
Dakota: Of course. Thank you for doing this.