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The famous Radio City Rockettes actually got their start in St. Louis in 1925 when the Missouri Rockets kicked off a great tradition. They performed at Radio City Music Hall in 1932 and became the official high kickers on that stage in 1933. Today their chorus line is an annual holiday tradition.
Countless little girls dream of becoming Rockettes when they grow up, and scores of grown-up dancers line up to audition each year.
The Rockettes are a vision in uniformity and precision. The famous high kick line requires dancers, and legs, that appear to an audience to have cookie-cutter conformity. In reality, there is a height range of a few inches.
Rockettes have to be between 5’6” and 5’10.5”. No exceptions. Everyone who shows up for an audition is measured in stocking feet, ballet tights or bare feet. If you don’t pass the height test, you turn around and go home.
To give the appearance during performance of one perfect line, the tallest dancers are positioned in the middle of the line, gradually tapering to the shortest dancers at the ends.
Every Rockette is required to be a United States citizen or have a valid work authorization that permits employment in the U.S. It’s a good idea to bring proof of either of these to the audition, along with your head shot and resume. You must be 18 by August of the year you audition in order to qualify.
As the auditions for the Christmas Spectacular are in the spring, usually in April and May, if you are 17 at the time of the audition your parent or guardian must sign a release at the audition or, if they will not be present at the audition, submit a signed release form, notarized by a notary public.
Rockettes must be proficient at jazz and tap. The word “proficient” doesn’t begin to describe the performance level necessary to make the cut. The choreography of the dance numbers is demanding, complex, and rigorous in its precision. The routines provoke gasps and wild applause from the audience for a reason—they are very, very tough. Talent is a useful prerequisite, but discipline and years of first-rate technique classes are essential. Ballet and modern dance are slightly less critical, but a dancer who qualifies for the Rockettes will have a solid background in both disciplines.
Being able to sing and dance at the same time is another valuable performance skill. The Rockettes do it all, and you have to show up as a well-rounded, exuberantly personable performer.
The Rockettes are icons and ambassadors. They perform in every media and all over the world, and they are a “type.” Their projected personality is smiling, enthused, upbeat, excited to be Rockettes and all-around wholesome and nice. The routines are practiced until absolutely perfect. Public appearances are meticulously rehearsed. Costumes, look, grooming, health and stamina all have to be flawless. Being a Rockette is not just another dance job—it’s membership in a legendary chorus line that has continued to delight holiday audiences for more than 75 years.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .