For nearly 80 years, young female dancers have aspired to become part of the Radio City Rockettes, the long-limbed ladies who define the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular with their always-in-unison high kicks, crisp costumes and ever-present holiday cheer.
The job is prestigious — iconic even — but it’s also time-consuming. Seven-hour rehearsals on six days a week precede tours with up to four performances a day. Is it worth it?
“You definitely ask yourself that, especially those first couple days of rehearsal when you can’t move in the morning,” laughs 11-year Rockette Kristina Larson. But of course she is willing to endure the muscle aches and many hours of practice to do something she loves.
Even after a decade of experience, Larson still had to audition to join the famous dance troupe again this season.
Rockettes must meet a height requirement — fall between 5’6’’ and 5’10” — and demonstrate proficiency in tap, jazz and modern dance.
“It really comes down to the precision that they look for, your attention to detail,” Larson says.
The Christmas-themed musical has been around since 1933, but didn’t leave New York City for a national tour until 1994. Two of the current show’s 12 scenes, “The Parade of the Wooden Soliders” (in which the Rockettes wear 24-inch-tall plumed hats) and “The Living Nativity” have remained on the program for all of the Spectacular’s 77 years.
Front and center
In the dance line, the Rockettes move as “one dancer” with identical steps, in identical costumes. To create the illusion of identical height, choreographers put the tallest dancers in the center of the line and the shortest at either end. Rockette Kristina Larson, at 5’9,” usually takes a spot near the center.