WESTBROOK – Kelly Wilson remembers watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the sidelines as a 6-year-old.

This year, she’s performing in it.

“I didn’t even know I would start dancing then,” said Wilson, now a sophomore at Westbrook High School.

Wilson and five other students from Drouin Dance Center in Westbrook will join some 300 dancers at the front of the iconic New York City parade next week.

Donning neon-colored jester costumes, the dancers will break into a circus-themed routine when they hit Herald Square.

Walking away from that performance is what 16-year-old Sarah Hopkins is looking forward to most.

“When we’ve finally done the dance, I bet it’ll feel amazing,” said the Westbrook High School junior.

Not that the buildup has been all that bad.

“So many people come up to us at school,” said Whitney Wallace, another dancer and a classmate of Hopkins’.

Five of the girls, ages 15 to 17, go to Westbrook High School, and one attends Portland High.

Wallace said some of their classmates, who plan to watch the parade on television, have asked them to purposely flub a dance move so they’re easier to pick out from the crowd.

It’s tempting, they say, but they’re not the type. After all, they were handpicked by studio owner Danielle Drouin because of their dedication to dance.

Drouin, who opened her studio in 2005, said she’s gotten invitations before to have some of her dancers perform in the parade, but she was waiting until this group of girls was ready.

Although she doesn’t question that they’re mature enough, earlier this week they didn’t quite have the routine down pat.

“We leave Saturday, and after that, they better know it,” Drouin said during a rehearsal Tuesday evening.

As the girls danced in the studio on the second floor of the Dana Warp Mill, Drouin counted the beat and shouted reminders to keep the performance precise.

“Sharper bigger smile,” she said.

Performing in the parade isn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the girls. It’s also the realization of a dream for Drouin.

After graduating from the University of Southern Maine in 1999, Drouin moved to New York to dance professionally.

She remembers seeing teenagers rehearsing for the Macy’s parade while she was working at Victoria’s Secret in Herald Square — one of her many part-time jobs.

One day, if those were her students from her studio, Drouin thought, “that would be really cool,” she said.


Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at [email protected]