If you are reading this article, it’s likely you know that NYC’s Radio City Music Hall is home to the infamous Radio City Rockettes. These high-kicking dancers grace the stage from November to January for a holiday show that has become a tradition for many. The Christmas Spectacular has been gracing the Radio City stage since 1933, just one year after the great stage was built. It’s no wonder the Rockettes are a New York City tradition.
With such a legacy this troupe of dancers and the theater they call home have acquired a rich history. Read on to go behind the scenes at Radio City Music Hall and the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular.
The Rockettes are “originally,” from St. Louis.
Theater entrepreneur S.L “Roxy” Rothafel, went to a Broadway show one night in 1932 and saw a guest performance by the visiting troupe—“The Missouri Rockets.” He fell in love with the precision dancers, and after the show, he begged them not to leave New York. Rothafel formed a new line of dancers called “The Roxyettes,” and had them perform at his Roxy Theater. A year later, the troupe officially opened at Rothafel’s new Radio City Music Hall. The troupe’s name?— “The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.”
The Theater maintains it’s original appearance.
The Radio City Music Hall welcomes over a million audience members through its doors for the Christmas Spectacular each year. It is safe to say the theater sees a lot of wear and tear. As an official National and Historical landmark building, all renovations and refurbishments must be done to the original likeness. When it comes to re-upholstering the seats or re-applying wallpaper, Radio City still works with the same contractors and family businesses from 1932.
Dancers kick up to 1200 times a day.
With nearly 300 kicks per show, and sometimes 4 shows per day, a single dancer can kick nearly 1200 times in one day.
Dancers’ heels are Mic’d
Although the Radio City Music Hall has excellent acoustics, the Rockettes still have a little help from the costume department when it comes to their taps. Each tap shoe sole is removed and replaced with a custom sole and heel that has a special cavity for an amplifying sound transmitter.
There’s a Special Room for Camels
The Rockette’s themselves relax in a break room appropriately deemed “The Kickback Lounge.” But for the animals that also grace the stage in the Christmas Spectacular, they too have a special place to relax and munch on snacks (hay?) in-between performances.
Competition is Fierce
Each year over a 1000 dancers line up to audition to be a Rockette, but only 80 will make it into the famous chorus line. There are 2 casts of Rockettes. Only 36 are onstage at a time, with 4 “swing,” dancers ready to jump onstage if need be.
If being on this historic stage is your dream, be sure to attend an audition in New York City in the Spring. Dancers start rehearsing in September, and the hustle doesn’t stop until January. Remember to dress the part in a French twist, red lip, and leotard that shows off your long legs. Shorter dancers don’t be dismayed, you can still perform in the Christmas Spectacular as an ensemble dancer.
Kelsey is a classically trained dancer and Actor’s Equity performer. She has performed for companies such as Central Florida Ballet, Tokyo Disney, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and at sea with leading luxury cruise lines. A dancer by day and a writer by night, when Kelsey is not performing she shares her love of dance, travel, and finding a good cup of coffee on her blog Wend Away Travels. Find her full performance bio and show gallery at www.kelseyannglennon.com.
Kick up your heels and let's dance!
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