When the holiday season arrives in the United States, the most synchronized high-kick dancers in New York take the stage at Radio City Music Hall.
“The Rockettes” — an all-ladies troupe — have been entertaining New Yorkers and tourists from around the world since they were founded in 1925. All the dancers have backgrounds in ballet, jazz and tap. And they’re required to be tall, between 168 and 179 centimeters (5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 10.5 inches).
One Rockette, Jackie Aitken, has been dancing she was 4 years old. She remembers coming to New York as a teenager for the “Rockettes Experience” — a day that included a backstage tour and mini-class with one of the Rockettes.
“I remember thinking, 'Wow!' – looking up to these girls, just thinking how amazing they are,” Aitken said.
The Rockettes’ performance is a holiday staple in New York City.
Every winter, American families take their children to the city to see the group perform. Many of the adults remember the experience as children themselves. But even before the first performance of the season, the group must endure six weeks of grueling rehearsals.
“It's a lot of work for the Rockettes,” said Julie Branam, choreographer of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. “There are eight production numbers. We have a lot to do, and we have two casts working at the same time. So we have 80 Rockettes in the room that are all learning the choreography.”
1,500 high-leg kicks
The Rockettes rehearse six hours per day, six days a week. After that, for two weeks, they prepare onstage in costume and with the orchestra. During the holiday season, from November through the beginning of January, the group performs up to six shows per day.
That's 1,500 high-leg kicks per person, per day.
“When I auditioned for the Rockettes, it became clear right away that this was going to be a very challenging job,” said Kristin Jantzie, a veteran Rockette of 10 years. “It looks very easy on stage, but there is so much practice and precision that goes into the job.”
Courtney Rottenberger, a fellow performer, has been a Rockette for four years.
“I'd love to be a Rockette for as many years as I can be,” Rottenberger said. “And after my Rockette career is over, I’d love to be a mother. I have a degree in psychology, so I'd like to revisit that.”
Rottenberger’s parents brought her to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes when she was 3 years old. If she has a daughter of her own, she might want to do the same for her, just in case she wants to become a Rockette, too.