The Armstrong School of Dance and those affiliated with it did a great job publicizing the fact that 22 of their dancers (including brother and sister duo Ki Alve and Zoe Zavaski from Spencer and Cassidy Payne from Newfield) would be performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so this reporter tuned in on that morning to see if I might catch a glimpse.
The Sony had barely warmed up when a commentator walked along the barrier holding back the hordes of spectators, held out her microphone and asked “Where are you from?” Imagine my surprise when I saw Debbie Alve (Zavaski and Ki Alve’s grandmother) say “Spencer, New York!” The interviewer wore a look of confusion, but Shyla (Ki and Zoe’s sister) piped up and said, “Near Ithaca!”
The 22 local dancers were part of “Spirit of America,” which consisted of several hundred dancers.
Hilary Schilling, who is Ki, Zoe and Shyla’s mom and Debbie’s daughter, said Sunday, “We had two mock interview sessions an hour before the broadcast, so we were ready.” She went on to say, “We arrived at 4:30 a.m. to claim our spots, and the place was packed. We talked to some NYPD officers, we saw Al Roker on his motorized thingy, we saw them moving the streetlights so the balloons can get through…by the time the parade hit us at 9:30 a.m., the time had flown by and all of a sudden, there were our kids!”
Schilling described the whirlwind of activities over the course of their visit, saying “After the parade, the kids danced at Herald Square and then rode the subway back to the Hilton for Thanksgiving dinner.” She added, “They had one chaperone for the 22 kids, and they went to see a Broadway show, the Rockettes, they went on a harbor cruise and they visited the 9/11 Memorial and the Freedom Tower.”
Zavaski called the experience “unforgettable,” and she said, “I have been in the parade before, but getting an opportunity to do it with my brother was very special.” When asked if she will continue with dance after graduation, the high school senior offered, “I won’t major in Dance, but I’ll definitely keep it in my life.”
Ki Alve who is a freshman at S-VE, said, “I loved meeting so many new friends. There were people from all over the country.” He added, “I will get to do it again in my senior year, and I can’t wait. It was so much fun.”
Schilling had this to say about the level of commitment her kids have brought to making such an experience possible: “Both of my kids have been dancing since they were 3 years old, and Zoe is at the studio five days a week, as a dancer and as a teacher. Since it’s not a school sport, a lot of people don’t understand the hard work and dedication that go into it.”
(The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was watched by 3.5 million spectators and viewed by over 50 million on television.)