August 6, 2013
By Erin Hoffman
Local troupe prepares for performance at Happiest Place on Earth
While a lot of kids are spending their summers watching cartoons and relaxing, the girls from Sammamish’s Emerald City Dance Co. are hard at work preparing for their visit to Disneyland, where they have been invited to dance in the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade.
Chelsea Lanese, dance company owner and competition instructor, as well as an ex-parade performer at Walt Disney World in Orlando, was thrilled when the entire team, made up of dancers from Issaquah and Sammamish, was selected to participate.
“It’s really special,” she said. “It’s such a proud moment to watch them dancing down Main Street.”
Last year, some of Lanese’s students danced in the parade, but all they had to do was register. This year, the rules changed and a rigorous audition process was put in place.
The girls were split into two age groups: 6-9 and 10-13. Each age group had to learn a dance routine from a tape sent by Dance the Magic, the company that helps put on the event, and perform it on tape. The Dance the Magic judges then reviewed the tapes and decided whether each individual girl was up to par. Luckily, the girls were up to the challenge.
“It’s a pretty big accomplishment because they’re so brand new to dance,” Lanese said, adding that most of the girls have been dancing for only two or three years.
But the work does not stop now that the girls have been selected. In October, the girls will receive another tape with two sets of choreography they have to learn for the live parade and the live taping of the televised parade. That means the girls will have only a month of practice with the routines before they go to Anaheim, Calif., in November.
In summer, the girls practice about six to seven hours a week, but during the school year, they practice between eight and 10 hours per week.
Once at Disneyland, the pressure will still be on. The girls will participate in intense, full-day rehearsals, and are expected to act like professionals.
On Nov. 8, the girls will arrive at the Disneyland Resort and perform in the Holiday Spectacular parade. The following day, they will record the live production performance, which will air on ABC on Christmas Eve.
“Once they get there, if they don’t know the routine well enough, they can be asked to leave,” Lanese said. “We’re supposed to only send dancers mature enough to be backstage all day.”
Despite the hard work ahead, the girls are just as excited as Lanese to perform at Disneyland, citing everything from the excitement of performing in a parade to the fresh water and sandwiches provided after the long days of rehearsal.
“It’s Disneyland — the happiest place on Earth. I can’t wait to perform,” 10-year-old Samantha Thompson said.
“I’m excited to go with my team and meet new people,” said Samm Grubbs, 13. The other girls agreed. Despite the fact that the age difference between the youngest and the oldest team member is seven years, the team is close.
“We all have at least one person close to our age,” Madison Chapman, 10, said.
“The older girls definitely take care of the younger girls,” Lanese said.
Despite the long rehearsals ahead of them, no complaints were heard from the girls. Their passion for dance, love for their team and excitement to perform at the happiest place on earth overshadowed any doubts.
“I feel closer to them than a teacher,” Lanese said.