The Rockettes: Kicking Up Their Heels

Photo by: pennstatelive

Photo by: pennstatelive

When I was a young girl I wanted to be a Rockette.  I wasn’t taking tap dance lessons for nothing.  Little did I know that the dancers, proficient in ballet and jazz, as well, were skilled athletes who practiced six hours a day six days a week.

My dreams were embedded in my family’s trips to New York to visit my grandparents.  These usually occurred over winter and spring breaks, when school was closed for the holidays and my father took time off from his business.  As a special treat we went to Radio City Music Hall to see a movie and watch the Christmas Spectacular.

The only movie I remember seeing there is The World of Henry Orient starring Peter Sellers.  I watched it again recently, and it is a delightful coming of age story of two fourteen-year old girls on their adventures following a concert pianist around the city.  I can understand why it has stayed with me all these years.

But the Rockettes.  Oh, my.  They were always mesmerizing: the precision of the kick line; the beauty of the performers; and, the dazzling stage settings.

This year is the 85th anniversary of the Rockettes in New York City.  Inspired by an English dance act called the Tiller Girls, Russell Markert, a choreographer, formed the Missouri Rockets in St. Louis, before relocating the troupe to Manhattan’s Roxy Theater in 1927, and hence calling them the Roxyettes.  With practice, practice, practice, they became headliners at the Music Hall in 1933.

The women from across the United States were required to be 5’3” to 5’6” inches tall.   Today they stand 5’6” to 5’10.5”.  That’s progress, but then as now, the shortest dancers among the thirty-six on stage at any one time were at the ends of the line creating the illusion that they were all the same height.

As always the program this season brings happiness and cheer to the audience.  The dancers appear as reindeer, candy canes, and wooden soldiers in The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, a favorite for decades.  And if that’s not enough, Santa Claus shows up, in 3-D, no less, to take the audience on a magical mystery tour through Manhattan.

The show ends with “Living Nativity,” a routine, which close to twenty minutes long, has always been way too long in my opinion, but the dancers mix it up with live camels, sheep, and donkeys, much to everyone’s delight.

Kick up your heels with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall through December 30th and create joyful memories this holiday season.

My prayers go to the children of Newtown, Connecticut, whose dreams will never materialize, the adults who tried to protect them, and their families who loved them.  May happier memories help mend their broken hearts.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved