Friday, November 23, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Performer

As many of you probably already know, I belong to an '80s dance company that performed in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade yesterday. How did this happen? Well, the group--the Spangles Dance Company--made a Christmas video last year that we posted on Facebook. That video was seen by a friend of a friend of our director, and that friend of a friend just happens to be a Macy's executive! Long story short, the Spangles were asked to perform a 90-second routine in the parade.

We had about four rehearsals to learn and perfect our routine, and then we had a 25-minute camera blocking rehearsal on Tuesday night at 10:55pm on location in front of Macy's. Well, we were supposed to have a 25-minute camera blocking rehearsal. We got all dolled up and waited for our turn after the Broadway musicals (Bring It On, Annie, and Nice Work If You Can Get It) rehearsed, but somewhere along the line, the schedule got thrown off, and since the NYPD had a strict 11:30pm deadline for the street to open back up to traffic, we had zero minutes in the actual space and zero assistance with blocking. Luckily, we're used to being thrown out of places by the NYPD (Grand Central Station and the Post Office are just two examples), so we made the best of it and tried to figure out our spacing on the sidewalk. On the bright side, we did get to wait in a small holding room with a man that is no stranger to parades--Ferris Bueller himself!

But let's get to the good stuff. Here's what happened on Thanksgiving Day:

4:20am  Wake up call!

4:50am  Got in a cab and headed to the Hilton Garden Inn on 35th Street. Our fearless leaders, Deb and Ted Spangles booked a conference room so we could create our signature MAC look (#sponsorusplease) and our giant 80s hair. 

5:00am  Arrived at the hotel. There were already spectators claiming front row spots behind the parade barricades.

6:00am  Since the conference room didn't have mirrors, we went to the nearby hotel gym to primp. There were two Asian ladies on the treadmills. I'm sure they were thrilled to see us there. I mean, I always want to inhale hairspray when I work out. I had actually started getting my hair in the groove by putting in sponge curlers the night before at 5pm. I tried to remember the way my hairdresser set my hair when I got a spiral perm and use the curlers in that same pattern. I was delighted to see that when teased, my sponge curls turned into a giant frizzy hair halo. Truly thrilling.

6:20am  We put on our bedazzled outfits. Sure that it would be freezing outside, I put on as many layers as possible. So when all was said and done, I was wearing: one pair of dance tights, one pair of shiny dance tights, knee socks, legwarmers, dance trunks, two tank tops, t-shirt, hoodie, and fingerless gloves.

6:45am  We left the hotel and hopped into two vans that took us to 81st and Columbus, where we were supposed to meet our Macy's handler (meaning the woman who was supposed to shepherd us from place to place), but she was having subway trouble, so we all filed into a nearby Starbucks to wait for her. We took pictures to pass the time.

7:30am  The very understanding Starbucks people allowed us to wait inside, not eating or drinking, just taking up room and probably frightening customers away. Thank you, Starbucks! Hilary was still lost in subway-land, so we decided to head to our waiting point, which was the Museum of Natural History. We filled past giant balloons and shivering marching bands as we walked inside to use the museum bathrooms. (I hear that the marching bands have to meet in Central Park and use port-o-potties. Poor things.) The bathroom line was loooooooong since we were waiting near a 200-girl dance group. I thought I would be cold, but they were wearing unitards that exposed their backs and their ankles. Poor, poor things.

8:15am  Hilary finally appeared! We primped and practiced and added more and more layers of hairspray to our hair, nervously waiting for the parade to begin. And freezing. We all had hand warmers, so our hands were warm, but that was about all that was warm.

The ladies along with Deb and Ted
9:00am  The parade began. We could hear random busts of cheering, but it was hard to tell what was happening.

9:15am  A gentleman led us to the barricade so we could easily feed into the parade when our turn came. From there, we saw a number of floats: a fun looking group (Jimmy Fallon and the Roots), a tired old man (Don McLean), a bunch of teenyboppers who were making kissy faces to anyone and everyone (The Wanted), and a fella wearing the tightest red pants I've ever seen  (Neon Trees).

9:45am  Finally. FINALLY, THEY LED US INTO THE PARADE!!! Eek! We were all completely freaking out, of course.  An announcer of some sort said something to the effect of, "And now, hailing from Queens, is a high-energy dance company that pays tribute to the 80s. Spangles Dance Company, join the parade!" And we were off. We started off down the street, alternately waving, walking, and dancing to songs ("I Wanna Dance With Somebody," "Jesse's Girl," and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun") that were played through a giant Macy's star speaker that was being driven down the street in front of us. And also in front of us were two strangers dressed as majorettes who were carrying a very official banner with our name on it!

10:00am  We reached 64th Street and I had suddenly gone from freezing to sweating. I absolutely couldn't believe it! I had tried so hard to prepare for the cold that I couldn't believe I was warm. Hilary, our handler, suddenly became our holder of hand warmers as we each got too hot to keep them in our gloves. In addition to the people lining the streets and packed onto bleachers, there were thousands of people looking down from above--in windows, on balconies, on rooftops, and more.

10:15am  We reached Columbus Circle. Making that turn from Central Park West to 59th Street was the most exciting part of the parade route for me. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it's so picturesque and open. We also got warmer and collectively chose to unzip our hoodies.

10:30am  We made another turn and danced down Sixth Avenue. The sheer volume of people lining the streets was completely overwhelming. They were giving so much energy to us that we really wanted to give a lot of energy back to them, especially since they had been waiting for hours. As a result, we were really starting to drag. We had been awake and anxious for six hours, and we had been walking/waving/dancing for 2 miles. And we still had our televised routine to perform. We all consciously tried to conserve our energy and cool down.

10:45am  We reached 37th Street, where we were instructed to stop dancing and just prepare for our performance. We were obviously freaking out. And reviewing our steps. And adding more hairspray. And reassuring each other that we all looked great for our close-ups.

10:55-ish am  We were finally on the Macy's star. The camera people directed us to take our places on stage during a commercial break. We had no idea how long it would be, so we anxiously held our first position while waiting for the music to start. It took so long to begin that my right foot began to cramp.

Holding during the commercial
 But it finally started. Even though the steps were a blur, I remember being really conscious of trying to enjoy everything as it happened. And since it was a random, one-of-a-kind, surreal experience, enjoying it was easier to do than I expected. The music came on, as I expected, but what I didn't expect was hearing the voices of Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie narrating our dance as we were doing it.

10:57am  And just as quickly as it started, our moment in the sun was over. We finished our 90-second routine and continued marching and waving down 34th Street--all the way to the giant 8th Avenue Post Office, where we took our official group photo. On the way, we passed the Hammerstein Ballroom, where we successfully auditioned for America's Got Talent. And we had already been kicked off the Post Office steps while filming "Get Outta My Dreams and Into My Car" so it seemed like life had come full circle for the Spangles Dance Company.

Here's the unofficial picture

 What's next for us? I'm not sure. We got a bunch of entertaining tweets, hundreds of people "liked" our Facebook page, several girls asked for audition info, and one person even wants us to perform at her Christmas party. I'm not sure where we'll be, but I can't wait to body roll into our future!  


  1. Thanks for sharing the "behind-the-scenes" and the excitement!
    Those Spangles are fantastic!!!


  3. What are the Spangles doing now in 2013?

  4. Excellent question. Sadly, the parade was our last hurrah because our fearless leader, Teddy Spangles, had to get all important and famous and stuff. But you haven't seen the last of us! The Spangles will rise again!!

    1. THE SPANGLES WILL RISE AGAIN! BTW are u still close with the other members of the spangles? and is there a way to contact you?

  5. I wouldn't mind seeing the Spangle Dance Company perform again in the Macy's Parade! Also, do u have any more Spangles outfits?

  6. Hello Urban Upstater!! Nice to meet you My name is Matthew Slee! I'm 14 years old, I live in the inland empire of California aka The Golden State on the west coast, and I am a big fan of you and your other members of your Spangles Dance Company Group!! Also, I have a question. If you have time, Do you think you and your members of this group will come here to the Golden State if you don't have other plans please?

  7. What are the Spangles doing now in 2014???? Also, do you guyshave any merchandise????