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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

what I learned in rockettes class (+ video)

I am not a coordinated person. As a little girl I was always in the emergency room. I could trip over a ladybug. In a Zumba class I have been known to just stop and stare at the instructor baffled at how she's getting her feet to move so fast. But there was one day not long ago, when just for one hour I was a girl who danced with poise with the Rockettes just like in the infamous Radio City Christmas Spectacular. How did I end up there, at Radio City Music Hall backstage where few people ever get to go?

I was on vacation on a hot and humid July day in Rhode Island when I read the incoming email on my phone: "You are invited to learn how to high kick and work out like a Rockette!" It was from BlogHer, the largest community of women bloggers and the following week I would be attending the BlogHer conference in New York City. As an attendee I had been receiving emails like this for weeks from sponsors. There were invitations to parties and events that filled up within moments of the invitations being sent out. It seemed I was never fast enough and I consistently received "Sorry this event is full!" emails. This--this opportunity to dance like a Rockette (brought to you by the makers of Centrum and Caltrate) was one that I was not going to miss out on. I had been working so hard to get fit, to become a girl who likes to work out, to feel like an athlete. So on a beach in Jamestown, Rhode Island I replied "Yes, yes, please, I would very much like to learn how to dance like a Rockette." And the answer was "We'll see you then!" I made it.

6:30am on August 3rd came early as I walked over to Radio City Music Hall with my gym bag. It was corny but I felt exhilarated, like I was a dancer version of Mary Tyler Moore or Marlo Thomas in "That Girl." I felt like a small town girl going after her dream in the big city. If I didn't think the construction workers and cab drivers would have thought I was bananas I would have thrown my ponytail holders in the air or something as equally fitting for the moment. I waited at the stage entrance for the other dancers and in small groups we were ushered into the guard station where we were given our passes and led up to the dancer's rehearsal space, a place that hardly anyone ever gets to see. This is where we would learn the infamous Parade of the Wooden Soldiers dance from the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

As we stretched in the the Large Rehearsal Hall, a hush came over us as the Rockettes entered the room. They were fit, sure, but what was more evident was their poise, how they walked--no--glided into the room. We all turned in awe and obeyed as they asked us to form lines. We were going to learn how to do the world famous high kick as well as The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers. Both look pretty easy, right? In fact, these are two dances that take such precision and focus that by the end of the workout, we all looked like we had been through Rockettes boot camp.

Our instructors. Aren't they beautiful?

Here is what we learned:

  • The Rockettes are between 5'6" and 5'10 1/2". 
  • For the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers dance, the Rockettes wear tap shoes and use 8 counts (1, 2, 3, 4 . . .) Each step should be the same size. To do this dance properly, you should be just touching the girl next to you.
  • The infamous High Kicks? These are known as Eye High Kicks.  During the Eye High Kicks, dancers cross their legs in such a way that they do not expose anything. A lady is always a lady. (I love that!)
  • Did you know that when the Rockettes do the Eye High Kicks that they are NOT holding onto each other for support? Instead the move is called Feel the Fabric. This means that a dancer will have her right hand lightly resting on the upper back of the dancer to her right so she is just touching the fabric. Her left hand just touches the fabric on the lower back of the dancer on her left.  This is so if one Rockette loses her balance she doesn't take down the rest of the dancers. Try this. Right Now. Try to do a high kick with someone next to you by just lightly touching their back. It is REALLY hard!
  • There are 300 high kicks per show! 
  • The first Rockettes rehearsal for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is in September.
  • During the show, the Rockettes have 80 seconds to change from costume, hat and gloves into the next costume. Note: When the Rockettes all fall into a pile, they are unzipping the girl in front of them for the next costume change!
  • Best seats in the house? They are all good but the First Mezzanine is ideal. There are 36 Rockettes and the seats in this section give you the best perspective. 

This video below is us, non-Rockettes trying to dance The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers. It's shaky because, well, I was dancing like a wooden soldier and that upside down business at the end? That was me saluting.

This is what The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers is supposed to look like.

What is like being a Rockette? Here are two of the Rockettes talking about their happiest moments being a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall.

When it was over, I was exhausted and happy. I smiled as I walked along the same corridor that hundreds of girls walked before me. Girls who achieved their goals of being a Rockette. I thought of how much work it took to get to this point. How many rejections had the girls experienced before they became a Rockette? How many early morning work-outs did they push themselves into doing because they had a single goal of being up on that stage? How many parties had they skipped because they were rehearsing? What they achieved took dedication and courage and strength. I stepped out into the humid, New York City morning and I was ridiculously happy. The little girl from a trailer park who tried desperately to be a beautiful, poised dancer (despite her complete and utter lack of coordination) became one, even for just one bright, amazing, lovely morning.


Want to know what it's like to work out with the Rockettes? Click here for information on the new Master Class series.

Click here for information on the fitness and diet plans of the Rockettes. 

Tickets for the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular are available here.

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