Dance Stories: Taryn De Luca and life as a Dance Captain
Taryn De Luca is a supremely talented singer and dancer, and winner of Best Female Performer at the most recent International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions' Brass Ring Awards (think of it as The Oscars for Theme Park performers). Her role as Dance Captain at Universal Studios Singapore means that while she spends most of her time on stage, she carries out a demanding and challenging management role at the same time. We talked to Taryn about her busy life as a Dance Captain, her training and experiences as a performer, and what she believes it takes to succeed in her job.
"I got taken to my first dance class when I was just 18 months old," she says. "My mum put my older sister into dance lessons and I would go along to watch her but then came the day where the teacher had realised I was joining in with everyone and wouldn't sit down!" Taryn joined Sharon Lawrence, who she credits to making her the performer she is today, training in every style - ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary and hip hop. After auditioning and being accepted into the Victorian College of the Arts, Taryn spent 4 years there before moving on to Jason Coleman's Ministry of Dance for full time training. She knew from very early on that performing was something she wanted to do professionally. "I have honestly wanted a performing career since I can remember," she explains. "It’s just a crazy passion of mine that will never disappear. It fills my heart with so much joy and I cannot imagine being as happy as I am without it."
The early stages of her career encompassed a variety of work, from performing at Crown Casino to being part of a dinner theatre show. "I had to add in the comedic acting side of performing as well as singing and dancing," she says. "That was a new side I hadn’t had the chance of exploring yet, which I absolutely loved." She also began to teach dance around Melbourne, which gave her valuable experience to draw upon in her current role. She has a soft spot for teaching; "I really love sharing my training and knowledge with young children who just love to dance, it’s so rewarding." Taryn took her first big overseas contract for a girl group tour, spending just over a year with two other girls touring around China. "When I got back to Melbourne I heard there was an audition for Universal Studios Singapore and I really wanted to go," she explains. "I got through 2 days of auditioning and I awaited the phone call we all hope to receive. I was lucky enough to receive a contract offer; I was ecstatic!"
Taryn's work at Universal Studios is varied, which keeps it interesting. "We perform a range of different songs from different genres; we sing songs from the 1950’s to popular music of today," she tells us. "I absolutely love the versatility of the shows we do, there is always something new to strive for and work hard on." She's also passionate about her audience: "I absolutely love that we have a close connection with our audience here, it’s always so incredible to see their reactions during our shows and see how happy they are," she says.
The real challenge, of course, is juggling all of the performances with the responsibilities of being a Dance Captain for several shows and lots of other singers and dancers. Taryn spent over a year working for the company before being promoted. She took inspiration from her Dance Captain from the first year, and paid attention to her methods. "My DC for my first contract was so wonderful and I learnt so much from her," says Taryn. "I looked up to her in how she performed and how she did her job as a Dance Captain. When she left the company the next year, she put my name forward to take over from her." Taryn was called in to be interviewed by her directors, and ultimately offered the position as Dance Captain for three main shows at Universal Studios.
The job might sound straightforward at first. "Being DC involves teaching the existing shows and sometimes helping with choreography of new shows, helping to install the new shows on stage and then maintaining them to the best of everyones abilities," she explains. In practice, Taryn manages a heavy workload daily. Often she will finish an onstage performance, before rushing to another area of the theme park to watch a different show and take notes for cleaning rehearsals, before heading back to do another show herself. "It can get very busy with performing in the shows as well," she says, "so I guess the most challenging part is to keep on top of everything and always make sure I’m doing my job to my full capability and the highest quality." During special events like Easter, Christmas or Halloween, she is often tasked with managing extra performances and shows on top of the three shows and parade that she handles daily. Luckily, she loves her job. "I love the feeling of teaching a performer something new and watching them improve," she tells us, "and being able to watch the show grow and evolve. I love every part of being DC and I’m so thankful I was given the opportunity."
She has some great advice for anyone considering taking on a Dance Captain role. "I think first of all you should love what you are doing because if you don’t it will reflect in both your own performance and the way you look after your shows and performers," she says. Taryn also believes strongly in setting a good example for the other castmembers. "I think you definitely have to perform to a high standard in all aspects of your performance for your colleagues to look up to." Taryn is also very level-headed, which keeps her relatable to her team. "You have to be down to earth and personable so your colleagues feel comfortable with you," she notes. "I have a close professional relationship with all the performers here and really love the fact that everyone is happy to come and talk to me about any show issues so we can resolve them. You need to be able to take notes and corrections from your directors and be able to express what they want in the shows to your performers in a way they understand."
Ultimately, if you're considering taking on the job, Taryn's message is simple. "Do it!" she says. "I have learnt so much about performing myself since being DC. You learn to watch shows in a different perspective, she explains. "It’s an incredible feeling to put your training into a show where you can watch the performers take on your knowledge." Even if the Dance Captain life is not for you, Taryn believes in challenging yourself as a performer. "Keep training hard and if you love what you do keep striving for your goals," she says. "The performing industry can be tough but keep pushing and never give up. If I get to keep singing and dancing on a stage throughout my life I’ll be so happy and forever grateful," she tells us. "Then hopefully one day make a beautiful loving family, and own a performing school where I can pass on and spread my training and knowledge to the next generations who have the same love for performing as I do."
Lastly, Taryn makes sure that her biggest supporter is with her through everything. "I carry a photo of my mum in my wallet which is always in my dance bag." she says. "I love to have her close to me at all times as she always believed in me and wanted me to push myself to become the best performer I could be. She definitely was my biggest fan. Even if she's not physically here anymore I know she's watching over me and cheering me on."
If you'd like to keep up with Taryn's career, follow her on instagram @taryndeluca91
Interview by Emily Newton-Smith
Photographs by Angela Low @angel_miss_u