Local dancers to shine in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 

  • Haley Lawton, left, and Riley Marney, right, will be dancing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Riley Marney, left, of Williamsburg, and Haley Lawton of Southampton will be dancing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Haley Lawton and Riley Marney are seen with the group that danced on the Today show on Monday. They are wearing the same costumes that they will wear when performing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/27/2019 10:37:39 AM

EASTHAMPTON — Two local dancers from the Hackworth School of Performing Arts are set to perform on one of the nation’s biggest stages: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Haley Lawton, 14, of Southampton, and Riley Marney, 12, of Williamsburg, will both be performing with the United States Tournament of Dance.

“They’re very good,” said Lisa Heath, the longtime teacher of both girls at Hackworth’s.

Their tap dance routine, “The Nice List,” will take place in Herald Square in front of Macy’s flagship store, and will help herald the arrival of Santa Claus. Before this, Lawton and Marney will march with the parade.

“I’m not really nervous,” Marney said. “I’m more excited.”

The routine, which is an estimated minute and a half to a minute and 45 seconds long, will be televised and will take place around 11:43 a.m.

Lawton and Marney both got into the performance by successfully auditioning at a convention in Hartford, Connecticut, in late September.

“My expectations were low but my hopes were high,” said Lawton, of the audition process.

The girls would later be selected to be among 10 dancers from the group to record the tapping audio track for the Thanksgiving performance and be among 20 dancers to perform on the Today show.

“They got to go into a recording studio in Manhattan and lay the track down,” said Jenn Lawton, Haley’s mother.

The girls’ Today show performance aired Monday, and Heath subsequently showed it to their classmates at Hackworth’s.

“The kids were excited,” she said.

Lawton said that dance brings her a lot of joy.

“I look forward to just being able to let go,” she said.

Lawton has been dancing at Hackworth’s for more than a decade, while Marney has been dancing there for about eight years.

Lawton also has a 16-year-old sister, Sarah, who also dances at Hackworth’s.

Jennifer Marney, Marney’s mother, has a 16-year-old daughter, Madison, who dances at Hackworth’s, and is an assistant instructor there as well.

Jennifer Marney said that they are at the studio five to six days a week.

“Not even exaggerating on that,” she said, describing Hackworth’s as “a second family.”

Heath has been Marney’s teacher since she started dancing.

“I love her,” Marney said.

Lawton also had praise for Heath, crediting her with helping her become the tapper she is now.

Jennifer Marney never took dance lessons, while Jenn Lawton took dance lessons at Hackworth’s when she was younger, although she made it clear that her dancing was, “nothing like these children.”

“These kids are amazing,” she said.

Heath has been teaching at Hackworth’s for more than three decades, starting when the Hackworth School of Performing Arts opened its current Easthampton location. The school originally started in 1934 as the Geoffrey School of Dance.

Although she has had students go on to dance professionally, this is the first time she will have students dance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Heath also said that she was proud of Marney and Lawton for their hard work.

“It was a great opportunity for them,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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