Think the Rockettes are the only stars of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular? Think again. Each year, a few lucky girls share the role of Clara, who appears during the Nutcracker portion of the show. Clara gets to do some real dancing, too, including solos and pas de deux. (Past Claras include Juliet Doherty and Tiler Peck!)
Dance Spirit sat down with this year's three Claras—Emerson Alexander, JoseBella Morton, and Rachel Quiner, all 12 years old—to find out what it takes to play Clara in the Spectacular, and the best parts of sharing the stage with the world's most iconic precision dance company.
For some it's a holiday tradition, for others its an iconic spectacle, but no matter the reason, more than 1 million people will watch the Rockettes perform in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular each year. And though the production has been around since 1933, much of what goes on behind those velvety curtains and intricate sets remains a mystery. To curb our curiosity and find out what ensues when these leggy ladies aren't doling out their sky-high kicks, we got a backstage tour from the legends themselves.
From hair and makeup, to warm-up exercises, and costume quick changes (the fastest quick change in the show is a #mindblowing 75 seconds, by the way) we got a glimpse into the glamorous (and sometimes not so glamorous) world of the Rockettes.
Watching the Radio City Rockettes perform a dazzling array of precision dance routines in their annual Christmas Spectacular show is a tradition many New Yorkers use to welcome the winter season. But how do these leggy ladies spend their off-season and what do they do to maintain their pristine technique, strength, and stamina when they're not on stage? We caught up with the Rockettes a few months before the opening night of the Christmas Spectacular to find out exactly what they do to keep those legendary leg kicks year round.
It’s official! Not only are the Rockettes unveiling a brand new summer show this year—titled New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes—but they’ve also tapped genius Mia Michaels to choreograph and direct.
That’s right: Michaels will be given full creative reign. And after the awesome opening number she created for last year's Spring Spectacular, we’re super excited to see the finished product. "The Rockettes are such a special group of women, and no other dance company in the world delivers the same kind of passion, femininity and power through dance. It is going to be an epic ride!” Michaels says in a Rockettes press release.
A classic kickline from last year's Spring Spectacular show (photo by Jason Allen via USA TODAY)
The show will pay tribute to NYC, following the adventures of a brother and sister who get separated from their parents during a trip to the city. The siblings will make their way through the Big Apple, receiving help from various landmarks come to life—from the Wall Street bull to the George M. Cohan statue in Times Square.
A few favorite elements from last year’s spring show will make an appearance this year, too: The 26-foot Statue of Liberty puppet and the jaw-dropping tap number in real rainfall to “Singin’ in the Rain” (sans Derek Hough, unfortunately) will return. What won't be included this time around? The Spring Spectacular's celeb cameos, either in person (à la DHough) or via voiceover. The leggy Rockette ladies will be the stars of the show, which we're more than OK with.
The epic "Singin' in the Rain" tap number from last year's Spring Spectacular (photo by Dan Niver via NewYork.com)
The New York Spectacular runs all summer (June 15–August 7) at Radio City Music Hall. Be sure to check it out when you’re in town for Nationals or summer intensives!
Is she glam? Is she #goals? Then she must be a Radio City Rockette. There are tons of behind-the-scenes videos and photo shoots for the ballerinas out there, while the Rockettes remain relatively elusive. That's part of their appeal, of course. But for dance nerds like us, who crave some insider information, a Rockettes day-in-the-life segment is like Christmas come early.
When do they get up in the morning? Do they do their own makeup? What do they eat? How do they unwind after a crazy show day? Find out!
Can't get enough of the Rockettes? Check out our feature that breaks down The Christmas Spectacular by its (mind-boggling) numbers!
The news broke Friday afternoon that the brand-new Radio City Rockettes production Heart and Lights—scheduled to open this Thursday—will be postponed until 2015. This was to be the first time the Rockettes would shine outside of the winter holiday season since 1997, showing off new choreography and non-Rockette-traditional dance styles. On behalf of many dancers and Rockette fans around the globe, we are just so bummed.
The Rockettes in a sneak peek of Heart and Lights at Grand Central Terminal.
Photo by Amanda Schwab/Starpix
Our hearts go out to the dancers, stagehands and production crew members who are now facing possible unemployment, especially since the main reason Madison Square Garden exec James Dolan pulled the plug had to do with script and story issues. Now, I may be going out on a limb here, but how many people go to see the Rockettes for the storyline? Helllloooo, we want dancing! We want the spectacle, the costumes, the puppets—like the 26-foot-tall Statue of Liberty and the New York Public Library lions—all which have been described as being totally fantastic in the new show.
We <3 their Fosse-style jazz boots!
Photo by Amanda Schwab/Starpix
That being said, we cannot wait for 2015. We know this show will go on, eventually. And when it does, we will be front and center, cheering on those gorgeous leggy dancers, all eye-high kicking down the line in unison. Plus, we still have The Christmas Spectacular. So let's come out in droves this winter to show our support and Let Christmas Shine!
In case you haven't noticed: the DS editors get pretty excited when Radio City Christmas Spectacular season rolls around, which is why we've been writing about the sparkliest show on earth all week. Yes, our obsession with this time of year may have something to do with the promise of impending snow and holiday cheer, but it's mostly due to The Rockettes, who never cease to amaze us with their spot-on precision and perfect high kicks.
Our favorite long-legged ladies did something special to kick off the holidays this year. Yesterday, they unveiled a new costume for the Rockette figure at Madame Tussauds in NYC, which is now displayed proudly in the famous wax museum's lobby. "Project Runway" fans will recognize the sparkly new NYC-inspired look that was designed by Season 10 contestant Christopher Palu. Check it out:
Can you tell which one is wax? (Photo courtesy Twitter.com/GetSpectacular)
Nicole Carol Schuman
She wasn’t the star of her studio, but that didn’t keep Nicole Carol Schuman from having an amazing professional dance career:
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a professional dancer. Sure, what I actually wanted to be was an astronaut-marine-model-princess-ballerina-lawyer-writer, but dance has always been a part of my career plan.
When I was 7, my parents enrolled me at Juliana’s Academy of Dance in Clinton Township, MI—this tiny storefront tucked inside a suburban shopping center next to a Weight Watchers. I started with a tap/ballet combo class once a week, then advanced to an hour each of jazz, tap and ballet. A couple years later, I started competing.
When I was 10, Juliana, the owner of the studio, gave me a solo. It was a lyrical number to “Evergreen” by Barbra Streisand. Afterward, she said she saw potential in me, and asked me to switch to her bigger studio an hour away in Troy, MI. It was an exciting but terrifying prospect, because in my mind, that studio was in the big leagues. It was where the “good” dancers went. I was so impressed with some of the girls there that I still remember their names to this day. They were rock stars.
With a great deal of pleading, I convinced my mom to start taking me to the new studio a couple days a week. Boy, was that a whole new world. I thought going there would be all sunshine and puppies, but instead, in a heartbeat, I went from doing no wrong to doing nothing right.
Not quite at Rockette height yet: 8-year-old Schuman (center) in a number called “Rockin’ Around the Clock”
I thought at least I was good at lyrical (I’d just done a solo to Barbra Streisand!), but then, in lyrical class, I was told I looked as if I had rigor mortis. I was mortified. There were times I wanted to run back to my old studio and hide. But I also wanted to be good. I wanted to be the girl whose name other girls remembered years later. There was no way I was going back
Not getting the parts I wanted in performances and competitions was hard, to say the least. My mother was never a stereotypical stage mom, but she was honest. She’d say, “You know, that other girl is better at that part than you are.” I knew I was surrounded by fabulous dancers, but getting constantly stuck in the back meant I had almost no confidence, and I always felt badly about myself.
Don’t get me wrong: I had a few glorious fouetté solos (I was always a turner). But the combination of adrenaline and a bad swayback usually meant something wonky happened onstage. More frequently, I was hidden in the back corner without explanation. At the time, that felt like the end of the world.
Schuman (far left) in costume for a small group lyrical number
A turning point for me was when Dee Caspary came in from L.A. to guest teach. We’d competed against his studio before, and their numbers were phenomenal. It was his first time teaching for us, and we were terrified. His movement was foreign and uncomfortable. We were doing an across-the-floor combination, and at one point, he pulled me out and made me do the combination over again by myself. He saw something special in me. When I did the combo again, it felt awful, but he had successfully given me the confidence I’d been lacking.
I didn’t suddenly go from being a back-row dancer to being the star of the studio, but that was the moment I realized how big and diverse the dance world really was. There were many parts I wasn’t right for, but there also had to be parts I was right for. And I was willing to put in the work to find them.
I realized I had two options: I could either resent my talented classmates or try to learn from them. And I could learn a lot more dancing in the back, able to see the talent I was surrounded by, than I ever could up in front where I could only see myself. I began to realize how insignificant my placement in the blocking of a routine was in comparison to the great training I was receiving. Every time I wasn’t chosen for a part I wanted, it was just more fuel for my fire.
Schuman (Left) In the “Let Christmas Shine” number
I auditioned for the Radio City Rockettes during my senior year of high school, and I was offered the job that summer. The offer surprised me, but it also helped me understand that not always being in the front had made me the dancer I’d become. I’m so grateful I was given the chance to work my butt off for every opportunity instead of having things handed to me.
I’ve now danced with the Rockettes for 11 years, and our motto is “Together we’re better.” Being a part of this company is about making these beautiful pictures no dancer could create by herself. It’s not about who’s the best, because we’re all the best.
Today I frequently judge dance competitions, and let me tell you: If you’re in the back row, that’s no reason to blow it off. I’m watching you!