Meet & Greet: Marilyn Chappell

Director and founder, Holly Springs School of Dance

Every three years, Chappell takes a group of dancers to perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — a "magical" experience for all involved.

Seventy-seven dancers from the Holly Springs School of Dance recently performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, marking the seventh time dancers from the 24-year-old studio have marched in the parade.

Early Days: I was teaching at Washington Elementary School (in Raleigh) as a dance specialist many years ago. I came out to Holly Springs and just thought it was the sweetest small town. I had always wanted to open a studio, but it seemed like such a leap of faith.

Taking the Leap: When you have a child, it gives you such confidence that you can do anything after that. I decided to … open a studio after my first daughter was born, and never looked back.

Holly Springs School of Dance: What makes our studio so special is that we really look at the whole child. What we do really well is having the rigor in place for the kids that want to go on to the secondary level and dance beyond the studio setting. But also for the kid that is more recreational, we have great things in place for them. We have a really good balance.

Studio Motto: We have printed in our window: Dance and love practiced here. That’s a really important part of who we are. We want our learning environment to feel really creative and a safe space for kids. We give our dancers a lot of leadership opportunities, so that they feel really empowered. Dance is our main focus, but I think having the opportunity to guide kids to that self realization of how incredible their lives can be, and giving them moments like this — like going to perform in the Macy’s Parade — is an opportunity for me to see them in their very best light and to let them know what their possibilities are.

The Parade: We did it the first time with 12 dancers, and it was an incredible experience for our kids and families and our community. It’s a lot to produce, and a lot financially for families, so I decided that we would (dance in the parade) every three years, which would give everybody in high school … an opportunity to do it.

It has become such a tradition within our program. The dancers that are really young look forward to knowing that they are going to have their time to shine.

We start fundraising in January. The parents and kids are really involved. It’s this process of teamwork — everybody working together for the common goal, which is a really important part.

Photo courtesy of the Holly Springs School of Dance

Morning of: About 4:30 a.m. in the morning everybody gets up. Your glam squad is there to help you — full makeup, full hair. It’s such an exciting morning. About 5:30 a.m. the kids are gonna leave and head to their starting point. The parents head down to the street. It is a really powerful moment to see your dancer walk by on the street. That is one of those life moments that you just don’t forget.

Magic Moment: Going through the journey of being prepared for Thanksgiving morning is pretty incredible. Walking the parade route, getting down to Macy’s and being at Herald Square, that process for (the dancers) is truly magical. You have people from all over the world that are out there cheering them on. The icing on the cake is the actual performance itself. It’s such a journey, and such a beautiful adventure for our kids, that all of that collectively is what makes it so special.

Community Support: I’m so thankful that our community supports things like this. Our dancers have already raised over $20,000. Local businesses that have had spirit nights; so many people step up to help our kids. When we perform in November, it’s not just about (the dancers) performing, it’s really about celebrating a community that helped to send them there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *