For some people, it’s the happiest place on Earth. For Oregon State’s Cool Shoes dance team, it’s the location of their final trip with the team’s creator and leader Cathy Dark before she retires from the program at the end of the academic year.
“I figured that this was my last year with Cool Shoes, so let’s go for the gold,” Cathy says.
The team will travel to Orlando, Florida, for five days in March to perform at Walt Disney World Resort’s Disney Springs park. The trip coincides with finals week at Oregon State, but the dancers have received special permission to rearrange their exams in order to participate in the performance.
Cathy – who’s led the team for 27 years – has taken Cool Shoes to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in the past so she knew about the high standards the company sets for its performers. She submitted pictures, music and three videos of the dancers performing to the selection committee last June. In July, she received the great news that they had been invited to perform in the park.
“I’m super excited,” says dancer Pam Melay, a senior majoring in Human Development and Family Sciences. “I’ve performed in Disneyland in high school for choir, dance and band and again with Cool Shoes two years ago, but I’ve never been to Florida so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Before the magic
The team has been busy preparing. They have a brief 20 minutes of stage time, and they’ve had to modify the set they are using for their upcoming Swingin’ Out concert in May. Disney World requires that groups have more than a single couple on stage, so Cathy and the dancers have re-set the songs so that five couples do a number and then another five come in for the next set.
“It’s a really great opportunity to get ballroom dancing out there and show people what it’s like,” says dancer Robert McAfee, a senior majoring in public health. “I can’t believe that I am going to perform in Disney World. It’s super exciting.”
In addition to the performance, the group of 21 dancers will have the opportunity to spend a few days exploring the various parks at Disney World Resort. They are also going to visit an “old shoe” – the affectionate name given to all alumni performers – who is now the head of the Florida Institute of Technology’s Department of Ocean Engineering and Sciences.
They also hope to do community performances while in Florida – at an elementary school and/or retirement community – and are planning a trip to the Atlantic Ocean, which most of them have never seen.
The trip will be bittersweet for many of the dancers, marking one of their final performances with their beloved leader and dance team. “I’ve done dance my entire life, and Cool Shoes for three, so it’s a little sad,” Pam says. “I might not get as many opportunities when I’m done at Oregon State.”
“I feel like it’s been short-lived,” Robert says. “I just started a year and a half ago and it was a new experience and now that I’ve finally gotten into the groove of it and finally understand what’s going on, I’m getting to the point where it will be over in a few months.”
Cool Shoes has been fundraising for the trip, and proceeds they’ve received have gone to travel costs, accommodations and costumes. If you’d like to make a donation to the team, you can make one here.
Cool Shoes’ final performance with Cathy Dark will be the Swingin’ Out performance at 7:30 p.m., May 18-19, in Corvallis High School’s main auditorium. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and can be purchased at the door, Langton 123 on Oregon State’s campus or from any member of the team.