A week before their performance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a troupe of dancers in Fuquay-Varina has discovered one more thing to worry about.
The silver-spangled costumes sent by organizers have Velcro tabs at the shoulders that are supposed to be unfastened and pulled down in a single motion during the dance, turning the outfit into a neon skirt. But halfway through the rehearsal, instructor Meghan Retseck has already pulled out her sewing kit to reattach a wayward piece of Velcro to dancer Kasey Everette’s costume.
These 11 girls from Fuquay-Varina’s Studio Five Dance Company – the company’s high school-aged students – are alternately giddy and mortified talking about the parade, the biggest stage most teenagers could dream of.
“The worst thing that could happen is we could get completely overwhelmed by the amount of people watching and just totally blank on what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Riley Valencia, a senior at Southwest Wake Academy. “That’s the worst-case scenario.”
“I still don’t believe it,” added Erin Stone, a sophomore at Fuquay-Varina High School. “I’ve been counting down to this, to when we leave, for like, a year.”
Or close to it – the girls found out in January they had been chosen. They’re at least one of two groups performing in the parade. Cary High School’s marching band is one of 10 selected from around the country to march in the 90th anniversary of the parade.
Studio Five is the second dance troupe from southern Wake County to participate in the parade in as many years. Last year, the Holly Springs School of Dance sent a group to perform with Spirit of America Productions, the same production company Studio Five will be dancing with.
The Fuquay-Varina dancers have been fundraising all year. The price tag for each dancer? $2,500.
“I think it’s surreal for them right now,” Retseck said. “I don’t think it’s going to set in until we’re actually there and lining up and it’s like, holy cow.”
She and her dancers have spent the past few weeks practicing choreography from videos, and the teens are still debating whether to pack curling irons for the trip – no one’s told them yet how they’ll style their hair and makeup.
“They’re supposed to know all the chants and choreography they do throughout the parade,” Retseck said. “We received that all of about two weeks ago and have been practicing in every spare minute we have at the studio. We’ve had awkward late nights on Fridays, or afternoons on Sundays – anywhere we can find time.”
Retseck, the dancers and their chaperones, have been in New York City since Saturday, where they’ve been bouncing between eight-hour rehearsals, sightseeing, and attending shows on Broadway and at Radio City Music Hall.
On parade day, though, the dancers will line up before the sun rises to rehearse a final time before beginning the 2.5-mile procession, during which they’ll be chanting and performing basic choreography – cross-country dancing, of sorts. Then, once they and the rest of the Spirit of America crew arrive at Herald Square, they’ll jump into the routine they spent Thursday night drilling – and pray their costumes cooperate.
Retseck was a dance instructor at Studio Five before she took it over from its original owners. She said the experience of performing with a larger group and on the terms of the parade’s organizers is a departure from the studio’s usual philosophy, which she describes as being more dancer-oriented and less competition-centric.
But Retseck submitted an audition tape anyway, she said, because it seemed like the kind of experience she would have wanted as a young dancer. In the end, though, all of the preparations – the fundraising, the late-night rehearsals, the costume anxieties – appear to have been worth it to give her dancers the chance to do what they love in front of the entire country.
“Our students have such a passion for dance, such a joy for it, and it comes across,” Retseck said. “We really emphasize having that joy, sharing that with our audience. Talent and skill is great, but if you can connect with your audience, that’s the most important thing.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan