ITHACA, N.Y.—The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is perhaps the most famous parade in the country, accompanying many families’ holidays

This year’s festivities will include 19 dancers from the Armstrong School of Dance, located in Ithaca. The group isn’t aware yet when exactly they will be performing, but local dance groups are normally slotted towards the end of the parade. The actual order of the parade isn’t relayed to groups until the morning of the event.

“It’s just a great bonding experience for them,” said Karen Armstrong Gorsky, who runs the Armstrong School of Dance. “All the dancers are from six different school districts. It pulls them together at our studio, but then they go down to New York City, which some of them have not been to frequently, and it puts them with dancers from all over the country. […] It really opens their eyes to life.”

“I’m really excited,” said Kassidy Payne, a senior at Newfield High School. Payne actually went and performed three years ago during Armstrong’s last trip. “I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment, just hoping I remember everything for our six-day trip down there.”

Each of the 19 dancers heading to NYC for a Thanksgiving Day Parade performance. Top row: Juliana Troy, Greta Sanford, Clare Sanford, Isa Salamanca, Kassidy Payne,
Paige Morse; Middlle Row: Julia Madrid, Elena Lauzun, Alivia Kirk, Eliza Kennedy, Parker Jennings, Anna Hibbard, Ella Goggan; Bottom Row: Erin Durling, Kiya Conners, Micayla Besemer, Genna Bennett, Audrey Bennett, Corinne Beeners. Credit: Photo provided

Kiya Conners, an Ithaca High School senior, echoed that sentiment—though her anticipation may even be higher than Payne’s as this is her first time performing in the parade.

“I’m definitely excited, but a little nervous because there’s been such a large build-up, but I’m excited to be in the city, perform and meet everybody,” Conners said. “I’m just going in and I have faith in myself. We’re going to be fine.”

The pair found out for sure that the Armstrong school would be returning to NYC for the parade in March. It could serve as a perfect punctuation as both Payne and Conners prepare to leave high school after 15 and 13 years dancing at Armstrong, respectively.

The school has been sending dancers to perform in the parade since 2008, when only three dancers went. Fourteen years later, the number has grown to nearly 20.

“In working with different producers, it’s kind of an eye-opener too because they have corrections for them and they have different directions that they want them to do, which is entirely different than what they’re used to,” Gorsky said. “They get a new perspective and a new appreciation for what, perhaps, professional dancing would be like.”

As for what the audience can expect Thursday from the Armstrong team, both dancers keenly avoided giving away too many details. The name of the performance is “Run, Run, Rudolph,” but Conners and Payne coyly declined to reveal much more.

“It’s a good routine, a really good routine,” Conners said. “It’s fast and it’s fun.”

The group also expressed their gratitude to donors who have supported the team’s fundraising efforts to be able to afford the trip. Gorsky said the team only goes every three years in part because of the expense (the trip is six days to include rehearsals, other shows, etc.), and is able to do it because of the community’s engagement and support.

“I would just like to thank everyone who supported us over the last three years of fundraising and making sure we are prepared to go down there, and also to Karen for giving us the opportunity to get to go and the space to practice,” Payne said. “The first day down there is a six hour rehearsal, so I think as soon as we walk into that grand ballroom with six other dancers, I think it’s going to be crazy.”

Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief at The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at