The girls got to go behind the scenes at the Florida theme park.
ADAMS, Mass. — Nearly a dozen local girls had the chance to perform in front of thousands at Disney World last year.
Dancecapade owner Jaclyn Grabicki brought 11 of her dancers to the Florida theme park in mid-December to perform alongside 45 other studios.
"When I opened my studio that was something that I kind of prided myself on. I wanted to give the girls opportunities to get out of this area to see other venues," she said. "Watching them dance at Disney and watching them perform was the greatest thing for me to see because it is something that you don't think you are ever going to be able to do for them."
Grabicki said the trip was not a competition but rather an opportunity for her girls to perform on a world stage at Disney Springs and a parade through the Magic Kingdom.
Dancer Hayden Therrien, who is about to turn 16, said it was quite the experience performing in front of thousands of people from all over the world.
"We had the confidence and we believed in ourselves," she said. "It was hard at first but when we got together and moved around, we got it ... we are a smaller studio compared to some of the others that were there and we stuck out."
Fellow dancer Rylin Larabee, who is about to turn 11, agreed that it was a bit of a shock.
"I was so nervous," she said. "I thought, 'oh no.'"
Grabicki said this was a first for a lot of the girls who are used to competing and performing in front of smaller groups.
Rylin's mom, Caitlin, agreed.
"I thought it was an amazing opportunity for her to go and dance in front of such a crowd," she said. "She is only 10 years old and it was just amazing for her to be dancing in front of thousands of people. It took a lot of courage."
Mom Kathryn LeBlanc said she was proud of her daughter Macaela LeBlanc as well as the rest of the girls for their professionalism. She thought the experience has changed her daughter.
"I have noticed since Disney she has come out of her shell," she said. "She is going to be auditioning for the opening number for our recital, which is not something she would have done prior."
She added that this great performance did not just happen and lauded Grabicki's efforts prior to the trip to make sure the girls were prepared.
"Jackie worked hard with the girls for hours every week," she said. "She would come in on Saturday or Monday nights. Whenever she could to make sure they were ready."
The 11 students were in Florida from Dec. 12 to 16 and got to enjoy the sights when they weren't dancing.
"I went on a lot of roller coasters," Rylin said.
She added that they also were ferried across Disney Springs, which was only reserved for the performers.
Grabicki said they were given the backstage passes during the trip.
"We got to see behind the scenes things that normal people who go to Disney do not get to see," she said. "We kind of got treated like a cast member and were able to go places that were not available to the public ... some places the parents weren't even allowed to go."
Therrien said this was her favorite part.
"We got to see a lot of stuff that we haven't seen before and we got to work with different choreographers," she said. "We got to see like the floats for the parade before they were out in public."
Macaela's favorite part of the trip was all encompassing and she "liked everything" as did dancer Kelsey Brown, who was most excited about the parade.
Grabicki thanked the community for supporting the dance studio's fundraising effort for the trip. She noted it is no easy task raising funds to send 11 girls down to Disney World.
"We are from a small community and these parents did a lot of fundraising and the community was a very big help," she said. "They helped get the kids there and being from a small town sometimes you don't get offered that kind of stuff."
Instructor and parent Nicole Brown added it was amazing to see the banners in the parade that said "Adams, Massachusetts."
"Seeing the banner and seeing the kids coming down, I was just overwhelmed I started crying," she said. "I never thought in my wildest dreams that my daughter would be marching down Main Street in Disney."
Grabicki said it was a moment she will hold on to forever.
"You almost want to freeze it so you can keep it ... it went by so quickly," she said. "We spent all of this time rehearsing and went by in a blink of an eye."
Grabicki said it is important for young athletes to travel and perform in new places. She hopes to bring the trip back in a couple a years so her younger dancers will also have the opportunity to go.
The students who traveled to Disney World are: Kelsey Brown, Ainsley Dean, Kaeli Dean, Vanessa Harrington, Courtney Kanelos, Genevieve Lagess, Rylin Larabee, Macaela LeBlanc, Lillian Meehan, Rebecca Poulton, and Hayden Therrien.
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