What It's Really Like to Dance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

November 26, 2018

Nothing kicks off the holiday season quite like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. From boppin’ elves to singing Christmas trees, the parade is one to watch—and definitely one to dance in. Every year, the famed Spirit of America Dance Star team performance gathers tons of dancers from high schools and studios from across the country. So what was it really like to dance in the parade last Thursday? We caught up with Spirit of America dancer Liliann DeVos to hear how the day big day went, and what she had to do to prepare. Liliann is a 17-year-old dancer from Frisco, TX, who serves as the captain of the Wakeland High School Legacy Line and is a member of the Next Step Dance Senior Drill Company. Read on for the deets!

Dance Spirit:
How were you selected to join the Spirit of America Dance Stars team?

Liliann DeVos: I qualified to join through competitions with my high school drill team this past spring by scoring well in our team routines.

: What did you do to prepare for the parade?

LD: Before I got to NYC, I learned the dance from a video and spent a lot of time planning what to wear to stay warm during the parade. Once I got there, the rehearsals were focused on cleaning the dance—it took a lot of work to transform 665 girls from many different dance backgrounds into one cohesive group. The first night we set the formation before we ever did the dance. Then we started learning our specific parts and a few choreography changes. In each rehearsal after that, we would continue along in the dance, polishing each part (sometimes even one single count) until it was perfect. It was a super-specific and fun process!

: What were the days leading up to the parade like?

LD: In the days before the parade, we got to enjoy the city while we were preparing for our performance. My whole group flew in on Saturday morning for the first rehearsal that night. Then on Sunday night after a day of rehearsals, everyone went to see Aladdin, which was absolutely amazing. Monday night, we all traveled on the subway together to go to Herald Square for a television rehearsal with NBC, and that was for sure one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was so exciting. We also had a full dress rehearsal Wednesday morning for our parents, which then turned into a show-off with Spirit of America Cheer and the Rangerettes.

: What was the day of the parade like?

LD: The morning of the parade I woke up at 4 am to be completely ready and downstairs by 5:45. We ran through the dance a few times, then took the subway to the American Museum of Natural History, all bundled up in blankets, gloves, and other extra clothes to be donated. The extra clothes were items we could slip on to stay warm before the parade started, such as sweatpants, scarves, ear warmers, and blankets, and then they were donated to the Association to Benefit Children in NYC by both Spirit of America dance and cheer teams. It was really special to see the huge piles of things to be donated as we were leaving because we all knew they would help so many people to stay warm this winter! The museum opened up for us to wait inside and stay warm. Then we went out onto the parade route at about 10 am.

DeVos and the group from her dance school before the parade (courtesy DeVos)

: How did it feel to perform on the streets of NYC?

LD: Performing in NYC on Thanksgiving was the most surreal experience I’ve ever had. The crowds were so energetic, I couldn’t help but smile and wave nonstop! I kept looking up toward the buildings to see the way every single balcony was packed. But the most amazing part was rounding the corner at Herald Square, looking at the girls around me, and soaking in that moment.

: How did you handle the cold and the crowds while walking and performing in the parade?

LD: The parade was so enthralling that I hardly noticed the cold, and the crowds were so much fun to perform for! Their energy was contagious, and I definitely fed off of it to perform even bigger and better.

The Spirit of America Dance Stars performing on Thanksgiving (screenshot via WRAL-TV)

: What was it like coming together and working with dancers from around the country?

LD: It was so much fun to work with dancers from all over the country. I made some really great friends from different cities in Texas, as well as some girls from Nashville, TN. It was such a unique experience to learn about other dance teams and meet other dancers.

What was the most rewarding part of the whole process? And the most challenging?

LD: The best part of this trip may have been getting to experience NYC and the parade with my friends, both new and old. They made rehearsals fun and helped me to make memories I’ll have forever. The worst part of my trip was the cold. I’m a Texas girl and have never experienced that kind of cold.

ICYMI, click here to watch the full parade performance!