2017-12-08 / Community News

Macy’s parade an ‘amazing’ day for O’Mara

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Grace O’Mara Grace O’Mara WESTBROOK — At 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 23 while many of her classmates were still sleeping during a day off from school due to the Thanksgiving holiday, Scarborough resident Grace O’Mara was in a New York City hotel room getting ready for the dancing opportunity of a lifetime.

O’Mara, a freshman at Cheverus High School, was one of the 13 dancers from Drouin Dance Center to perform with more than 600 other Spirit of America dancers throughout the country during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a New York City tradition since 1924.

O’Mara said the experience of participating in the parade, which is watched by more than three million people in person and tens of millions at home, is tough to put into words.

“It was an amazing experience being in the parade. It was so surreal with all the balloons around us,” O’Mara said.

Scarborough resident Grace O’Mara was one of 13 dancers from Drouin Dance Center to perform with Spirit of America Production during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. (Courtesy photo) Scarborough resident Grace O’Mara was one of 13 dancers from Drouin Dance Center to perform with Spirit of America Production during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. (Courtesy photo) The group walked the entire 2.5-mile parade route before performing its 70-second routine in front of Macy’s in Herald Square.

“It was a lot different because there was a lot of people and spacing wise it was very difficult,” O’Mara said.

O’Mara was originally blocked to perform in the corner of the Spirit of America ensemble, but after Spirit of America event producers saw the pep and enthusiasm that she and fellow Drouin dancer Alex Ferrigan, of Gorham, showed, they were brought front and center. As a result she was on television during the entire routine.

“When I got back to school everyone was like ‘I saw you on TV’ and had video,” O’Mara said last week.

Drouin Dance Center Owner and Director Danielle Drouin said her dance studio, located in the old Dana Warp Mill overlooking the Presumpscot River, was first invited to take part in the Spirit of America production six years ago and sent six dancers to take part.

“They were really impressed with the work ethic of our dancers and extended an invitation again for 2014. We performed in that parade and they extended another invitation for this year’s parade,” Drouin said.

Drouin said she chose this year’s dancers, who have to be between 14 and 18 years old, based on their ability to learn quickly and who “have good performance skills.”

Drouin found out her dance studio was invited in January and chose the dancers in February. Rehearsals started in late October, after Drouin received the choreography.

“They sent a video of the choreography so we would all have it and had rehearsals twice a week until we went down there,” said O’Mara, who has been dancing at Drouin Dance Center since 2009, when she and her family moved to Scarborough from Baltimore, Maryland.

The performance was altered by the time dancers got to New York, Drouin said, because Spirit of America wants the 70-second routine to be fresh and not something someone had seen on television coverage of the dancers’ participation in the event in the days or weeks leading up to the parade.

While intensive rehearsals awaited O’Mara and her fellow Drouin dancers when they got to New York City, their schedule did allow time to enjoy the artistic culture of the Big Apple, including Broadway performances of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Chicago, as well as the Radio City Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.

“New York is my favorite place in the world,” O’Mara said. “I loved being there and seeing the city.”

Drouin said not only did her dancers get a chance to see some of the sights of the city, participating in the parade also gave them the unique opportunity to dance with top dancers in other parts of the country in a time-honored New York City tradition.

“It’s a different opportunity for our dancers. Many of them travel in the summer to go to intensives, workshops or camps around the country and get to perform with people with all different dance backgrounds, but not many people can say they have danced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s sort of inspired the younger kids,” Drouin said.

O’Mara is quick to reflect that performing in the parade is an opportunity not many dancers in the United States and even fewer in this part of the country, get to do.

“Dance is really my passion. I love it. I love going to class and getting to do what I do through dance and all the places it takes me,” O’Mara said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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