Holly Springs dancers prepare for audience of 50 million

Local dance group heads to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

akenney@newsobserver.comNovember 22, 2012 

— Watch Thursday for the girls in black and white costumes doing jazzy dance moves through Manhattan’s urban canyons. You might just know one.

“I’m not nervous. I think there’s so much excitement in me it’s impossible to be nervous – I’m overwhelmed by joy,” said Caroline Markoch, 16, of Fuquay-Varina.

She’s one of 40 local dancers performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Holly Springs School of Dance students, ages 14 to 18, flew north on Saturday for what will be the school’s fourth appearance in the parade.

The young women have been fundraising all year and practicing for weeks, but for some it goes back much further than that.

“It’s kind of been my dream since I was very little,” said Markoch, a School of Dance member since she was 4. “I watch it every Thanksgiving.”

School leader Marilyn Chappell first organized the trip in 2003. This year, the girls will make up a tenth of the 400-strong Spirit of America troupe, which charges about $1,800 a head for a week’s lodging, food, entertainment – and a coveted spot in the three-hour parade.

“One of the most fun parts is walking the parade route, being there with thousands and thousands of people cheering you on ,” Chappell said. “Everywhere you look, there are people.”

It’s hard to understate the size of the parade. About 8,000 people will march or perform, while 3.5 million will line the streets of New York City and another 50 million will watch on television, according to parade organizers.

The Spirit of America’s crew’s biggest part will be a 90-second routine in front of the grandstands at Herald Square.

“I’ve been making sure that I really know the dance,” said Scarlett Dobbs, 16, of Holly Springs. “Then I’ve been packing, getting everything together, trying to get organized – and trying to get some sleep.” (That’s no easy task with all the excitement, her mom says.)

The dance studio has made the trip once every three years, giving younger students time to raise money for the big trip, which includes a stay at the Hilton, a visit to the Empire State Building, a Statue of Liberty cruise and tickets to Broadway and Radio City Music Hall.

And with each good performance, the Holly Springs School of Dance gets another chance to send its kids to the streets of New York.

“I don’t think I fathomed the idea,” Markoch said, “that people I knew could actually be in the parade.”

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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