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For me, spending my formative years growing up in the North East of the USA, The Rockettes have always been synonymous with the holiday season and so in the spirit of spreading joy to the world, I thought I would take a moment to blog about these talented artists who collaborate each year to create a spectacular show that leaves international audiences visiting New York City in awe and filled with joy.
Here are ten interesting facts about the world famous Rockettes.
1. They have been known to kick up to 650 times in one day. In fact, they do more than 160 kicks per show and perform in up to four shows a day during busiest time of the season!
2. Two iconic numbers have remained nearly unchanged. Two of the most cherished scenes in the annual holiday show, the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and the “Living Nativity,” have been a part of Radio City’s holiday tradition since they were first performed on the Great Stage in 1933. The costume for the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” number has remained nearly unchanged and each costume is specifically crafted and sized for each dancer.
3. Over 3,000 women have performed as Rockettes. Since the Christmas Spectacular’s opening night in 1933, more than 3,000 women have shared in the legacy by performing as a Rockette.
4. Over 1,000 costumes are worn by the cast in each show. Approximately 1,100 colorful costumes are worn in the Christmas Spectacular. Not only do the Rockettes themselves have extensive costume changes but also the ensemble actors and singers.
5. Each dancer does their own hair and makeup for performances. Each Rockette knows the basic requirements: the signature red lips, false eyelashes and hair up in a French twist.
6. Every pair of shoes are fitted with their own live microphones. Ever wonder how the entire audience can hear each step of those famous tap routines? The Wardrobe Department Staff remove the heel and sole of each pair of LaDuca tap shoes and inserts a custom leather sole that attaches to the bottom of the shoe. A new heel is made that allows a special cavity within the heel for the sound transmitter to be stored inside—this helps pick up the sounds of every tap. (Fun Fact: 14,096 AA batteries are used throughout the run of the Christmas Spectacular for these transmitters!)
7. There are 36 digital projectors used throughout Radio City Music Hall. These highly advanced projectors cast color, pattern and imagery onto Radio City’s proscenium arches and all throughout the Music Hall, creating massive visuals from Bethlehem’s starry night sky in the “Living Nativity” to Santa’s whimsical workshop in the North Pole. Each projector uses the most advanced 14K digital mapping technology.
With such advanced technology, entertainment in theatres and music venues in 2019 is drastically different than what was offered in the 1930's, when The Rockettes originated. Pictured below are The Rockette's performing the "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" in 1934.
While on first view it may seem like a much better show with such advanced technology, lights, sound, and sets, ironically, I think it's sometimes too distracting to the audience as they are often seen looking away from the Rockettes and their routines at the other technical parts being presented in the lavish show.
In the 1930s, 40s and even 50s, the Rockettes themselves captured your full attention and there was little else offered in the production to distract you from watching them perform.
8. They weren’t always called the “Rockettes.” Dancers known as the “Missouri Rockets” made their show debut in St. Louis. In that same year, the troupe traveled to New York City to perform in the Broadway show Rain or Shine and were discovered by showman S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel. The Missouri Rockets were such an instant hit that Rothafel did not want to let them leave after their performances at the Roxy Theatre. Rothafel pleaded to form another line to replace the departing “Missouri Rockets.” While there were three separate dance troupes performing in New York City at that time, Rothafel moved two of the troupes to Radio City Music Hall for its opening night on Dec. 27th, 1932 where they performed a routine to the song “With a Feather in Your Cap.” He initially dubbed the chorus line the “Roxyettes.” Two years later, the “Roxyettes” officially became the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.
9. Believe it or not, they rehearse six hours a day, six days a week, for six weeks leading up to the opening of a show. The days are long and there are many different styles of dance (jazz, tap, and, of course their world famous eye-high kicks!) Karen Keeler is the Creative Director of The Rockettes.
10. There’s a morning and afternoon cast for the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City. There are a total of 80 Rockettes— that is 40 in each cast, and 36 will perform onstage at a time. Each cast has four “swing dancers.” It is the job of the swing dancer to understudy 9 spots on the line so that they can fill in any of those spots if the need should arise.
The Rockettes exemplify teamwork, strength, glamour, elegance, grace and confidence in all that they do. The intense physicality and discipline required to achieve the level of precision that the Rockettes are known for is unparalleled. The rehearsal period is hard work and the energy in the rehearsal studio when all of the women are working together is contagious. The focus, drive and commitment that every single woman brings is what makes the Rockettes such an extraordinary American Icon for all to enjoy.
Thank you to the Rockettes for consistently creating and spreading Joy to the World.