Yesterday I celebrated my last May Day as a student at Emma Willard. Emma Willard values traditions more than any other high school I know of. Opening Convocation. Halloween. Freshman Hall Thanksgiving Dinner. Peanuts and Shells. Eventide. Revels. Ring Dinner. Principal’s Play Day. May Day. Triangle Takeover. Flame Ceremony. Senior Tea. Baccalaureate. Graduation. The list goes on. As a homesick freshman, I was hesitant to jump right in and allow myself to fully experience and enjoy Emma’s traditions. To be frank, they just didn’t make sense to me, and I didn’t have enough money to buy a dress for every occasion! As a soon-to-be alumna, I have savored each and every tradition Emma tradition, for they all emphasize spirit, culture, and community.
May Day has become one of my favorite school traditions. I remember liking it more than almost all of the traditions my freshman year (that May Day in particular also happened to be the one where a senior announced Principal’s Play Day for the following day). The senior class chooses a theme that is kept a secret, and many members of the class perform a skit revolving around that theme. Three years ago it was The Wizard of Oz, two years ago it was Grease, and one year ago it was Disney Pixar. Every year the entire schools votes on ‘The May Court’, comprising of five seniors who make an elegant entrance during the skit. There are two dances spread out throughout the May Day performance: the freshman may pole dance and the junior dancers dance. In addition, 12 Tones and JSG perform. Normally the performance occurs on the senior triangle, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, everyone (students, teachers, parents) squeezes into the gym. Every year there is a festive picnic lunch to follow. May Day marks the last full month of school and for seniors, one of the last traditions we get to experience.
This year’s theme was High School Musical. Our class has talked about it ever since freshman year, and we knew at the beginning of the year that this would be our theme. At senior dinner in September, Sun even based her speech around the classic teenage movie (of our generation, at least), highlighting that “We’re all in this [senior year] together”. The High School Musical series is by far one of my favorites from my childhood (and young adulthood). Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) was my first real crush, and I realized that high school was not something to fear. My high school experience certainly does not mirror those of the East High Wildcats, but that’s perfectly alright.
I regret not being a freshman may pole dancer my freshman year. I signed up for it but didn’t make the effort to go to rehearsals, so I ended up losing my spot (and Meghan’s). When I got the email about May Day tryouts for seniors, I knew I had to do it. I loved the movies too much, and I had to be in May Day before graduating. On March 31, I auditioned with my fellow classmates in the Lab Theater. I originally wanted to by Troy or Gabriella, but when I received the email that I had been cast for Ryan, I was ecstatic. At the same time, I was extremely anxious, knowing that I would have to learn three dances and perform them in front of 400 people.
We had rehearsals once or twice a week throughout the early April but started rehearsing every night for the past two weeks. It took us several attempts to learn the chorus of “We’re All in This Together” and even more attempts to perfect “Bop to the Top”. For our audition scene of “What I’ve Been Looking For” we ended up just winging it because there wasn’t much choreography. Annabelle (classmate playing Sharpay) and I both don’t have a strong background in dance, but we managed to learn it and have fun with it after lots of practice. We so desperately wanted to become the characters we love on the screen.
It was a beautiful day yesterday– 68 degrees, sunny, blue skies and puffy clouds. I was extremely nervous. Everyone lined the triangle, including my dad who had taken the day off to watch the performance. And before I knew it, I was on the triangle dressed head to toe as Ryan Evans and cheered on by my teachers and peers. I felt the same type of rush that I did on Revels night. The performance flew by, and I surprised myself by my lack of fitness while sprinting through the tunnels to get from one building to the other. Annabelle and I crushed our “Bop to the Top” dance which felt incredible. I wish I could capture standing on top of the ladder afterwards and looking down at the crowd and may pole. My mom watched this dance during rehearsal on Tuesday night and loved it. Lucky for me, I got to relive it via my friends’ snapchat stories.
The freshmen wove the ribbons around the May pole perfectly. The school joke is that the May pole appears perfect every three years. The senior class that taught our freshman class did it perfectly, so we taught it to this freshman class perfectly. But the current juniors and sophomores messed their May pole dance up, so the freshman classes they teach it to will also mess it up (most likely). The freshmen did great handling the pressure us seniors gently pressed on them. I have no doubt they will do the same when they’re seniors teaching it to the freshman class.
We had burgers and hot dogs, salad, potato chips, lemonade, and popsicles after the performance. My dad said he caught himself crying during the performance. I almost did too. It’s simply hard to comprehend that this is the last month here. And I have come so far since freshman year. To this day, I feel guilty about seriously considering transferring. I wrote in my journal yesterday before the performance I’m ready to move on, but I’m not ready to leave. I think that sums up how almost all seniors feel at this point about graduating and heading off to college.
This May Day was by far the most memorable and special one because I was a part of it and left my mark on this beloved tradition. The three hour rehearsals after my lacrosse games two days in a row this week paid off. I faced my ultimate fear of dancing in front of people, and it felt really, really good. I’ll add it to my list of ways I have stepped out of my comfort zone during high school. To a final May Day for the books. Cheers and happy spring! xo ~e.
Photos by Sosie Almasian & Katie Coakley