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With a legacy going back to St. Louis, Missouri in 1925, New York City's Radio City Rockettes first debuted on December 27, 1932. An all-female precision dance company, the Rockettes have performed primarily out of the Big Apple's Radio City Music Hall since 1935. The Rockettes are perhaps most famous for the high in-unison leg kicks they perform during their chorus line finales. The audition to become a Rockette is tough and once you become one your pay is good, though not great.
Rockette Pay and Benefits
Members of the Rockettes belong to a union, the American Guild of Variety Artists, and are paid according to their AGVA contracts. The Gothamist website says that Rockettes earn from $1,400 to $1,500 weekly. At $1,500 weekly, a Rockette would earn $78,000 annually, if she worked a full 52-week schedule. The Rockettes performance season, though, is compressed into several short months. Generally, a Rockette can expect to earn from $36,000 to $39,000, though health insurance and other benefits are paid on a year-round basis.
According to a 2005 "New York Times" article, many Rockettes supplement their off-season earnings by working in musical theater. Some Rockettes also work as fitness or dance instructors or pursue careers in other areas of the entertainment industry such as modeling. Other Rockettes are mothers and wives and spend their off-season time with their families. The high-endurance nature of their dance work also means most Rockettes will end their careers sometime in their mid-30s.
Becoming a Rockette
If you hope to become a Rockette first become proficient in ballet, tap and jazz styles of dance, especially jazz and tap. Rockette candidates must also measure between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10-and-a-half inches tall in their stocking feet. Hopeful Rockettes are measured for height at their auditions, with the audition itself taking two full days. Rockette auditions are physically and emotionally demanding and candidates must quickly demonstrate their full range of dance abilities to have a chance at selection.
Rockette Working Conditions
There's little doubt that Rockettes earn what they are paid. For one, a Rockette performs around 300 high kicks per show, wears sometimes-heavy costumes and suffers occasional occupational injuries related to her dance routines. From September to November, the Rockettes rehearse seven hours per day, six days per week to prepare for their signature show, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. During the holidays, Rockettes perform five to six shows daily and their pay works out to about $135 per 90-minute show as of 2005.
Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.