Hundreds of young dancers dream of becoming Radio City Rockettes. From the opening number in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, it’s clear that something is different about the Rockettes. With poise and class, they embody passion for dance and the precise technique that’s needed to be a dancer.
I haven’t had the opportunity to see the Christmas Spectacular in New York City, but I did see the touring Rockettes cast in Pittsburgh, Pa., at the Benedum Center about five years ago. From dance number one, I was hooked. I fell in love with everything from the gorgeous, sparkling costumes to their precise, totally synchronized movements. Since then, I have dreamed about being a Rockette and dancing in Radio City Music Hall, and in an amazing way, I was able to make those dreams come true for a week this past summer.
I auditioned for the Rockettes Summer Intensive in Pittsburgh in January 2012. A few months later, I got an e-mail congratulating me on my acceptance into the program. I was beside myself — a week of essentially being a Rockette in New York City! The end of July couldn’t come fast enough.
Hotel reservations were made (for the Waldorf-Astoria, of all places!), train tickets purchased, and character shoes fitted. And on a hot day in late July, I walked out of Penn Station in New York City and just embraced that feeling that you can only get in the fast-paced, exciting world of New York.
Rockettes camp was an incredible experience. For that week, I was a Rockette. Every morning I grabbed breakfast at a little deli on West 49th and walked to Radio City Music Hall, hair in a bun and dance bag on my shoulder. Each day included technique classes in tap and jazz and rehearsal time, during which we learned the three numbers to be performed at the end of the week.
During some special sessions throughout the week, we got to take a tour of Radio City Music Hall, visit the Rockettes’ dressing rooms (normally off-limits to the public), and hear from our Rockette teachers about their stories and audition tips.
I’m not going to lie: my feet have never hurt as much as they did that week. I enviously watched the girls wearing La Ducas, who looked like they weren’t in nearly as much pain as I was… but I powered through! After all, no pain, no gain — right?
The week was incredible, and I was definitely challenged and pushed each day. I experienced the rigor of the life of a Rockette, but I also got to experience the amazing end result through the performance at the end of the week. Onstage at New York University downtown, I got to perform as a Rockette — a dream come true.
What that week instilled in me, most importantly, was an even higher level of respect for the Radio City Rockettes. They pick up choreography incredibly quickly and pay attention to the tiniest details to make those dance numbers as clean and sharp as they can be. They dance in those heels for hours every single day to prepare. But the coolest thing is that they are so incredibly passionate about what they do. They know that generations of little girls look up to them with stars in their eyes, and the Rockettes take that role model position seriously.
I can’t say enough good things about the teachers and students I met at the summer intensive program. The teachers took great care to call each dancer by her name and give her honest and helpful critiques to help her improve. The genuine care and love from everyone involved in the intensive was evident, and they will only help dancers like me become the best that we can be.
The Rockettes Summer Intensive taught me so much in just a week. It allowed me to be a Rockette in New York City and to dance in Radio City Music Hall every day…it doesn’t get any cooler than that.
Check out this video below of “Twelve Days of Christmas,” which is one of the numbers I learned (partly) for the intensive!