The Rockettes are a precision dance company founded in 1925 and since 1935 have performed out of Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York City. During the Christmas season, the Rockettes present five shows a day, seven days a week. Perhaps their best-known routine is an eye-high leg kick in perfect unison in a chorus line, which they include at the end of every performance. Their style of dance is a mixture of modern dance and classic ballet. Auditions to become a Rockette are always in April in New York City. Women who audition must show proficiency in several genres of dancing, mainly ballet, tap, modern, and jazz. Normally, four hundred to five hundred women will audition yearly.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is performed annually at Radio City Music Hall. There are other numerous shows performed in American and Canadian cities by a touring company of Rockettes. It is one of the most-watched live shows in the United States, with over 2 million viewers per year. The Rockettes perform annually at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (since 1957) and the America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit. The NBC Rockefeller Center Tree-Lighting Ceremony also traditionally includes a performance by the dance troupe.
The group was founded in St. Louis, Missouri by Russell Markert in 1925, originally performing as the "Missouri Rockets." Markert had been inspired by the John Tiller Girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922, and was convinced that "If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks... they'd knock your socks off!" The group was brought to New York City by Samuel Roxy Rothafel to perform at his Roxy Theatre and renamed the "Roxyettes." When Rothafel left the Roxy Theatre to open Radio City Music Hall, the dance troupe followed and later became known as the Rockettes. The group performed as part of opening night at Radio City Music Hall on December 27, 1932. In 1936, the troupe won the grand prize at the "Paris Exposition de Dance."
The Rockettes have long been represented by the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). In 1967 they won a month-long strike for better working conditions, which was led by AGVA salaried officer Penny Singleton.
The first East Asian Rockette, a Japan-born woman named Setsuko Maruhashi, was hired in 1985. The Rockettes did not allow dark-skinned dancers into the dance line until 1987. The justification for the policy against hiring African-Americans was that they would distract from the consistent look of the dance group. The first African-American Rockette was Jennifer Jones; she made her debut in 1988.
During the halftime show of Super Bowl XXII in 1988, the Rockettes were seen by a television audience of 150 million viewers. George W. Bush's 2001 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony featured the performers prancing down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Every Rockette must be between 5'6" and 5'101⁄2" tall. Dancers under the height requirement are ineligible to audition.
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Radio City Christmas Spectacular
The Rockettes first became recording artists when they released the soundtrack to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in 1999/2000. The album however does not contain The Nutcracker. The tracklisting is as Follows:
- Santa's Gonna Rock and Roll
- Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
- The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
- Here Comes Santa Claus
- White Christmas in New York
- The Man With The Bag
- Toyland Ball
- Welcome Christmas
- Jing-A-Ling / Reindeer Dance / The Fly Away
- The Living Nativity
The Radio City Rockettes
The Rockettes became Solo Recording Artists when they released their self-titled album in 2008. The tracklisting is as Follows:
- Winter Wonderland
- Jingle Bells
- Merry Christmas Everybody
- Blue Christmas
- The Christmas Song
- Let it Snow
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town
- Caribbean Christmas
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
- Here Comes Santa Claus
- Happy Christmas (War is Over)
- Christmas Time is Here
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
- White Christmas
- Auld Lang Syne
Notable former Rockettes
- "Radio City Music Hall Inaugural Program". Internet Broadway Database.
- "Accord is reached in Rockettes strike". New York Times. October 13, 1967.
- "Penny Singleton". Wiegand Foundation. June 26, 2000. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
- "Radio City Music Hall Rockette Setsuko Maruhasi". Asiance. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
- Cohen, Adam (September 28, 2003). "Rock of Ages (review of Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center by Daniel Okrent)". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
- Johnston, Laurie; Anderson, Susan Heller (March 30, 1983). "New York Day by Day; A Shift at the Music Hall". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
- "N.Y.'s Radio City Names First Black Rockette". Jet. January 18, 1988. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
Media related to The Rockettes at Wikimedia Commons
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- Rockettes Official Website
- Photos: The Rockettes in rehearsal
- NY Times 2005 review of Radio City Christmas Spectacular
- Works by or about The Rockettes in libraries (WorldCat catalog)