The Life of a Radio City Rockette
One of my employees, Corey, has had the fantastic and unique adventure of being a Radio City Rockette for eleven years. For four of those years, she was a New York City Rockette. I asked her to share her phenomenal experience and she wrote this guest blog post. Enjoy!
When Alayne asked me to write about my experience as a Rockette, I realized how difficult it would be to sum up my experience in one blog post. I was a Radio City Rockette for eleven years, and what a ride it was. I auditioned for the iconic company when I was 20, fresh off a cruise ship contract where I danced and traveled worldwide. Unlike many young dancers, I had not dreamed of becoming a Rockette my whole life. The idea was put in my head when I was eighteen by my dance teacher. Needless to say, I had no idea how much hard work I had ahead of me.
Auditioning To Be a Rockette
The audition process was highly intense. Women were wrapped around the block at Radio City for the open call. The requirements to become a Rockette include being between 5’6” and 5' 10 ½”, and you must be proficient in jazz, tap, and ballet. Once I made it into the building, they taught us multiple different combinations at rapid speed. Once we learned the combo, three of us would audition in front of a panel of about four people. Once everyone had gone, they made the first round of cuts. I made it through three rounds of that and then was asked to return the next day with the small group of us that were left.
My mom and I booked a hotel that night, not even realizing it would be more than a one-day event. I met another Rockette hopeful that suggested we get together that night to practice together. We both went in the next day feeling anxious but excited. At the end of the day, we were measured and they took our pictures as we posed in a famous Rockette bevel. Then we were all sent home, where we had to wait to hopefully get that life-changing phone call. That call didn’t come for weeks, but it did! It was a Sunday morning, Father’s Day and my whole family had just gotten home from church. I had a 212 area code number calling and couldn’t believe it. I got the call that would change everything!
I Was A New Rockette
In my first season and the four seasons that followed, I was part of the traveling cast. The new girls were all welcomed to Radio City first for a new Rockette’s luncheon. We got a tour of the famous building and learned about the early days of the Rockettes, known initially as the Roxyettes. It was a thrilling day learning about the legacy we were about to become a part of. That fall, we headed into six weeks of rehearsals. We rehearsed in Myrtle Beach, SC, for six hours a day, six days a week. When the show was ready, we performed in two to three different cities. My first show happened to be right here in Rhode Island, at Providence Performing Arts Center. My whole family was there for opening night and I couldn’t believe how lucky I felt. Those years spent on the road were the best.
Traveling around with a huge cast and crew of like-minded people, spending the holidays together, all while praying we would get to do it again the following year. The schedule was crazy, but we kept ourselves occupied with fun on and off-stage shenanigans. Happy hour during four show days that consisted of every flavor of Emergen-C you could imagine. Themed proms where we would rent a space in our hotel and get all dressed up. We even had a section during our Ragdoll number where we had a few counts to improv. We would pull themes out of a hat before the show and then go full out during those couple moments of freedom acting it out. I loved performing the show, but by the 90th performance in only two months, you need to keep things interesting!
I Graduated To A Seasoned Rockette
I finished my fifth year on the road, and I was in South Africa visiting my then-boyfriend when I received an email from the company. They were closing all touring productions of the show and we would all have to re-audition for the New York cast if we wanted to be considered for the following year. I was shocked. Job security as a performer is not a common thing, and I thought I had found it up until that email. For years, January through September was spent living in Rhode Island and working for Alayne. October through the new year was spent with my second family, living my dream as a professional dancer. I was very fortunate to be offered the job in New York after auditioning, but it was a new chapter. Whenever I talk about my years as a Rockette, there are “the road years” and “New York years.” Both are amazing, but very different.
New York City Rockette Life
New York City brought exciting new opportunities and new challenges. I was suddenly getting picked to do extra PR work and was able to perform at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Jimmy Fallon Show, and the Rockefeller Tree lighting! Of all the incredible performances, my favorite was always the Macy’s Parade. The first year I took part, I experienced a rush of adrenaline, unlike anything I had ever felt! I was so used to the precision of our stage at Radio City. Following a number line and colored tape to ensure our perfect lines and exact formations. Now here I was, dancing on the street in front of Macy’s with barely any marks to go off, in extremely cold weather, in a beautiful but freezing costume. I will never forget hitting my opening pose, which had me looking up on the high left diagonal. I was staring directly at the top of the Empire State Building, the crowd was cheering, and it was an absolute pinch-me moment. I looked forward to that performance every year.
On top of the performances and various talk shows, it was common to run into famous people backstage. One of my favorite memories was meeting Sir Paul McCartney. He met a small group of us, kissed me on the cheek, and asked to do a kickline with us. All the events were exciting but required much extra time on top of our demanding show schedule.
We had an amazing athletic training department to get us through all the injuries that came along with the job. We liked to say we were “athletes in diamonds.” Ninety-minute shows, up to four times a day, around 300 kicks per show, averaging 16 shows a week. You do the math, but that’s a lot of eye highs.
And Then Covid-19 Changed Everything
Before I knew it, five years had passed in New York. I had settled into life as a “city girl”, and started teaching a variety of fitness classes during my off seasons and doing special events with the Rockettes. My South African boyfriend had become my awesome husband, and I had yet again fallen into a comfortable routine. Then Covid hit.
Instead of being cooped up in our tiny Astoria apartment, we decided to go hang at my parents in Foster, RI. We thought it would be the two weeks that most people were prepared for. Fast forward five months and the city was just barely coming back to life. The time away gave us a new perspective as to what we wanted, and home didn’t feel like New York anymore. We made the move to Middletown and I decided that when the show came back, and if I got my job back, that would be my final season.
I went back in 2022 for my eleventh season and it was a great one to go out on. The show was dark the year of Covid, the first time since the show's inception in 1933. We were all so happy to be back after all those months of isolation. There was so much joy in the rehearsal room that first day. Unfortunately, Covid got the best of the cast the last few weeks of the run and we were forced to close early. Even though I never had that picture perfect last bow to hold on to, I had enough memories to last a lifetime. I’ll always remember the feeling of the curtain rising on the Radio City stage, looking out at 6,000 people. The applause that would erupt when we began our first kickline of the show. Most of all, I’ll remember the friendships I made along the way. We share a special bond that will always bring us together.
In just a few months, I’m headed back to Myrtle Beach where it all began, with my close group of “Retired Rox” for our long-planned reunion. I’m so grateful for my time as a Rockette; it changed my life.