This month we highlight 13-year-old J. Denali Herbert of Rutland, MA. Denali has taken a number of classes at The Hanover Theatre Conservatory, from Ballet to Improvisation. Read on to learn more about the seventh grader.

Favorite Subject in School: Math

Favorite Color: Purple

Favorite Food: Steak

Fun Fact about Yourself: I go to Alaska every other year.

What is your favorite Conservatory class and why?

I love all my classes, and it is very hard to choose just one because I love so many things about each and every one of them. I think expression is most important in performing arts. In my dance classes, I show expressions very specifically, yet differently during dance performances and drama. 

During the Pre-Teen Youth Summer Program production of Beauty and the Beast JR. last summer, I fell in love with acting. So, if I have to pick one, Creative Drama II is my favorite class because I can do anything and be free to be myself. In drama, I use everything I have experienced in the past, regardless of whether it was positive or negative, and put it into performance. I can also become anyone I want, and I can be challenged to become someone or something I never thought of becoming. I am inspired to use all of my emotions, expressions and body language to express and communicate a message or story. 

I have also met so many cool friends through my classes, and watching them act helps me understand how and what to do and say.

What is your favorite master class you have taken at the conservatory?

Salsa Dance was my favorite master class. Since I was little, I have taken years of different types of dance classes, such as Lyrical, Modern, Acro, Ballet, Hip Hop and Jazz, but never Salsa. Salsa is very energetic, dramatic and quite sassy. It also has a lot of pizazz, making it alive and exciting. I also liked the teacher a lot. She was encouraging, fun and upbeat, and the music was jazzy, catchy and exciting too.

What is your favorite show you have ever seen?

My favorite show of all time and the one I love the most is the ballet version of Romeo and Juliet.  I saw this performed by Boston Ballet. The event was magical. There were many characters, and the costumes, energy and atmosphere made it so alive. The fact that this show was made so long ago is just amazing to me, and I simply love it. I think I’ll always love it and watch it over and over.

How did you first get involved in the performing arts? What is your favorite thing about being involved in arts?

Ever since I can remember, I was always dancing and singing. I can do it anywhere, or at least anywhere I can get mom and dad to take me. While my dad was in the army, we traveled to many places and visited dance studios, starting when we were stationed in Alaska, then to New Jersey and now in Massachusetts. I have always known from the start that I wanted to be on stage, either dancing or acting, and now I’m able to sing properly too.

My favorite thing about being involved in the performing arts is the whole process… strengthening, rehearsing, making my own interpretation, the makeup and costumes, the excitement of performing with an audience and sharing my passion with everyone so they can appreciate it too.

What do the performing arts mean to you?

Interpretation is most important and always different for everyone. When I am performing, it means I am showing my emotions through my body and interpreting a message, and I can even evoke emotions from the audience. Performing arts can be powerful and make an audience want to watch and experience a story, song or feeling. The extra part for me is that dancing, acting and singing helps and is a way for me to relieve stress in my life. I love it.

What is your favorite role you have ever played in a show or performance and why? What is your dream role or performance that you would love to be a part of someday?

I loved being a Party Girl in The Nutcracker. I’ve been in The Nutcracker for five years now.  The stage, the lights, dressing up in makeup and costumes, becoming a Party Girl, the stage family, the props and the story are so exciting to me. As a Party Girl, I feel more mature and have a longer role and dance routine on stage.  My dream roles are Clara and Lead Angel in The Nutcracker. Ever since my very first role as a Reindeer, I saw Clara and knew she was me. I knew right away that I have all the feelings, emotions and expressions of Clara and that I can become her with very hard work and practice. I hope one day that dream will come true. With the Lead Angel, they were in the same scene as I was as a reindeer, and the little me said because they’re in the same scene, I want to be them when I’m older. The Nutcracker is during two of my favorite times of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, when there is a lot of hustling and bustling and excitement of the holidays… the atmosphere, friends, the fast pace, costumes… I love them all and will treasure them for the rest of my life.

What do you want to do when you grow up and why? 

There have been changes recently on what I want to be when I grow up. What has stayed the same is my dream to be a professional dancer. I have always known this. What has changed since Beauty and the Beast, Jr. is that I have been introduced to two more dreams: Being on Broadway and acting on film or television. I would love to be a professional dancer because I love dancing so much. It would be so amazing to work and be paid for something that I love doing.  Now, I also dream when I grow up to perform on Broadway in New York City because of the location. It is well known, famous performers have performed there and they have the best and most talented dancers, singers and actors.

Do you have a role model or someone that inspires you to be in the performing arts?

I have many influences in my life, like Misty Copeland, my dad and my teachers (Miss Jen and Miss Ana Luisa).  My role model who has stayed with me the whole entire time is my mom. She helps me push through tough times, sad times and the best of times. She has helped me follow my dream, believe in myself and choose the best dance places to go. She also steps in when dancing becomes too much. My mom is always with me when I need her most and nearby when I think I don’t. My mom is my role model. I can’t say enough, thanks Mom!

Anything else you would like to add?

I feel so honored, proud and thankful to be selected for The Hanover Conservatory Spotlight. Thank you. It has been a challenging year for me. Writing my feelings and events in my life has helped me understand and see how far I have come, especially this year. I would like to thank all who have helped me through this journey!