Leah Andrini has been to the Macy’s Balloon Inflation Celebration in Manhattan every year since she was a baby.
Going to watch the filling of the big balloons for the annual Thanksgiving Day parade the evening before has been a tradition for her family.
But she has never seen the parade in person.
That will change this year, when she will march in the parade, then perform a dance routine with about 600 others in front of the flagship department store.
”I am so excited,” she said. “I know it’s going to be cold but it doesn’t matter. I’m so excited to actually see in person what goes on on TV.”
The Sparta High School junior auditioned and was selected to be part of the Spirit of America performance team with dancers, ages 13-18, from throughout the country.
They will perform a jazz funk dance routine for about 1 1/2 minutes in front of Macy’s.
Andrini, 16, learned the routine from a video she was sent after being accepted into the group.
The performance team will rehearse together for the first time when they meet Saturday, Nov. 18 in New York City.
Rehearsals are scheduled every day of that week except for Tuesday, Nov. 21, which the dancers will spend sightseeing.
During the week, the group also will appear on NBC’s “Today” show; see the Radio City Rockettes in the “Christmas Spectacular” and “& Juliet” on Broadway; visit the 9/11 Memorial, Statue of Liberty and the Oculus; and shop at Macy’s.
Andrini said she was looking forward to seeing the Empire State Building because she has never been there.
‘I can do that’
She was watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on television last year when she saw the Spirit of America group perform. “I was like, I can do that,” she said.
She researched how to audition, then sent in short videos of her doing a jazz number, a tap number and a solo that she does in competition.
Andrini is a member of the senior dance company at Dance Expression Dance Arts in Hamburg.
She started taking dance lessons when she was 2 1/2 years old in a tiny ballet class, she said. Later, she took jazz, tap and hip hop.
Since she was about 7 years old, she has been taking classes in hip hop, jazz, ballet, tap, modern and contemporary dance.
Now, she takes about 10 classes a week and spends Saturdays in rehearsal for dance competitions.
“I love performing and expressing myself as a dancer. It’s a lot of fun.”
She has been a featured dancer in the musicals “Newsies” and “The Little Mermaid” at Sparta High School.
She is in the school drama club and in interested in joining the robotics team.
Looking ahead to college, she does not know which one she will attend but she would like to join a dance team or minor in dance. She is thinking about a career in music audio engineering or audio production.
First for studio
Lisa Schumann, director of Dance Expression Dance Arts, said Andrini is the first student there to take part in the Macy’s parade. “We are so excited.”
When the teen mentioned her interest in the Spirit of America group, “We said, ‘Go for it,’ because it is a long commitment. It’s a week-long event so not everybody can do that in terms of your other responsibilities and activities,” Schumann said.
She called Andrini “a phenomenal dancer.” “She’s a really, really good tapper.”
Schumann’s advice to her student about appearing in the parade: “Just give it 150 percent and have the time of your life and make friends.”