Tuesday, December 27, 2011
The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, which debuted in 1933, draws more than a million people annually. The show features the high-kicking Rockettes, a precision dance troupe that has been a staple at Radio City since the 1930s.
The group first kicked to life in 1925 as the "Missouri Rockets" and made their show business debut in St. Louis, the realization of a long-time dream of their creator, Russell Markert.
At Radio City's opening night, on December 27, 1932, they did just that. The Rockettes, discovered and brought to New York by consummate showman S.L. (Roxy) Rothafel who first dubbed them the "Roxyettes," shared the stage with 17 diverse acts, among them the Flying Wallendas, Ray Bolger and Martha Graham.
They were an instant sensation! Markert had created the quintessential American chorus line - an exciting precision drill team with great style. Starting with just 16 women, the numbers grew over the years to what is now a 36-member Rockette kick line.
In 1933, Radio City featured a new movie and a lavish stage production every week starring the Rockettes. Russell Markert's stringent requirements never varied, and he continued to stage and choreograph productions at the Music Hall until his retirement in 1971. This concept of the dance line was to achieve absolute precision. The audience saw 36 Rockettes perform intricate routines, but always moving as "one dancer." Everything - the height, the costumes and steps - was kept completely identical. The illusion of uniform height is maintained to this day by putting the tallest dancers in the center, and gradually decreasing the height with the shortest women at either end. The Radio City Rockettes perform with a signature precision that perpetually delights every new audience. Indeed, these "dancing daughters" - as their founder, Russell Markert always referred to them - have not only persevered for more than 75 years, but are thriving now more than ever.
For more than three quarters of a century, the Radio City Rockettes, the world's most famous precision dance company, have been a legendary force in entertainment, with a rich history of skill and dedication to their craft. Under the supervision of their founder, Russell Markert, the Rockettes appeared at Radio City Music Hall in hundreds of stage spectaculars that accompanied premiere Hollywood films. The Rockettes performed 4 shows a day, 28 shows a week, 365 days a year for over 40 years. In addition to this phenomenal schedule, the Rockettes starred in USO Tours during WWII, won the grand prize at the "Paris Exposition de Dance" in 1936 and more recently performed their show-stopping high kicks at the "Super Bowl Halftime Show" in 1988, where they performed before a television audience of 150 million viewers. Each year the Rockettes are featured in the annual "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" and were a prominent feature at the "2001 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony". The Rockettes are a national treasure. Their annual starring role in the "The Radio City Spectacular" at Radio City Music Hall, and other cities across the United States, is seen by more people in one year than most other live shows in America - more than 2.1 million people annually. The New York Times corroborates their talent by saying, "But best of all, as always, are the miraculous Rockettes in their crisp costumes, smiling and tapping their way flawlessly everywhere…"
Today, the Rockettes play an integral role in many Radio City theatrical productions, special events and television productions. They star annually in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York and around the country. They've tapped their way through the dreams of thousands of young girls, many of whom hope to add their own legs to that world-famous kick line.
Since 1932, more than 3,000 women have danced as Rockettes. Each year, in cities across America, hundreds of young women audition to be members of the internationally known troupe. Radio City Rockettes must be between 5'5" and 5'10" and must demonstrate proficiency in tap, jazz, ballet and modern dance. They must also display a radiant energy that will shine across the footlights to their audience. The Radio City Rockettes perform with a signature precision that perpetually delights every new audience. Indeed, these "dancing daughters" - as their founder, Russell Markert always referred to them - have not only persevered for more than 75 years, but are thriving now more than ever.
On a personal note, if you have never seen the Rockettes in action, I highly recommend that you do so, if you ever get the opportunity. I saw them when I was a little girl on a trip to the city with my Girl Scout Troop, it stuck with me. The beauty, the grace the precision was like magic. I had the opportunity to take my kids a few years ago and the look on their faces as they watched these young women in action was priceless. My daughter, a dancer, was in awe. “I want to do that” “I want to be one of them”. I imagine that was how each one of those 3,000 women felt as little girls.