Photo by Erin Baiano

Moody lighting streams across a dance studio. As a pop anthem blasts, a supergroup of strong, confident dancers attacks intricate choreography with finesse and poise. But this isn't the latest class video to achieve viral status—it's footage of the world-famous Radio City Rockettes at work.

For almost a century, the Rockettes have been celebrated for their signature style of precision dance, which combines ballet, tap, and classic jazz to awe-inspiring effect. These 80 women (two casts of 36, plus four swings/dance captains) have always been the undisputed stars of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which is seen by over a million fans each year.

But the Rockettes are out to start some new traditions, too. When opening night of the 87th season of the Spectacular arrives later this month, the curtain will rise on one of the most diverse kicklines in Rockette history—including an unprecedented 13 fresh faces. Meet four of them here.

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Cover Story
Darius Hickman and Taylor Sieve in Travis Wall's "It Takes a Lot to Know a Man" (Adam Rose, courtesy FOX)

As an audience member, it's easy to overlook how much work went into the performance onstage—a dancer's job is to make it look effortless, after all. But every pro has tackled a role that made them doubt themselves, whether by testing their stamina, pushing them out of their comfort zones, or touching on their vulnerabilities and insecurities. Here, six dancers share some of their toughest roles, how they made it through, and what they learned.

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Dancer to Dancer
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Sponsored by NYCDA
Courtesy Macy's, Inc.

As you're prepping your Thanksgiving meal, why not throw in a dash of dance?

This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three NYC dance institutions.

Tune in to NBC November 28 from 9 am to noon (in all time zones), or catch the rebroadcast at 2 pm (also in all time zones). Here's what's in store:

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Dance News
Getty Images

Your first semester as a college dance student can be hectic. But being busy is no reason to put your mental health on hold. In fact, the times when you feel totally overwhelmed by tasks and to-do lists are actually when your mental health is most important.

Luckily, most colleges have tons of on-campus resources for getting help with your mental wellness. Just as you would go to the PT if your ankle were suddenly bothering you, you should seek out counseling resources if you're feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed. DS talked to two college educators about the best ways to use your college counseling resources—and why it's important to do so.

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Pratt + Kreidich Photography, Courtesy Dancers & Dogs

The holiday season is coming our way, and with it good cheer, a giving spirit and, of course, The Nutcracker. Our favorite photography duo, Dancers & Dogs, has found a way to garner that energy for a good cause: pet adoption.

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Just for Fun

Traveling is just par for the course when you're a dancer. But spending hours 35,000 feet in the air on a plane can have serious side effects once you land. Here, we break down the biggest pre- and postflight dos and don'ts to help you feel ready for that first summer intensive class the minute you leave the airport.

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Health & Body
Erin Baiano

In our Dear Katie series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I've been trying to improve my front développé, but I just can't get it higher than 90 degrees. I'm plenty flexible, and my side extension is pretty good. What am I doing wrong?

Annika

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Dear Katie
We're all kinds of obsessed with James Van Der Beek's boy band-inspired look. (Erin McCandless, courtesy ABC)

Last night's episode of "Dancing with the Stars" saw our pros and stars performing to music by all of our fave boy bands and girl groups, including the Spice Girls, One Direction, and K-Pop sensation BTS. As a bonus, the judges were joined by "DWTS" alumni and boy band aficionado/veteran Joey Fatone.

As we get closer and closer to the finale (the semi-finals are next week, folks!), the dancing is only getting better. And last night also featured the elimination of one of the most controversial stars in "DWTS" history—talk about drama! In case you missed it, we rounded up the episode's danciest highlights.

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Dance Videos
Lisa Taylor/Visualized Memories LLC, courtesy Liam Redford

Fearlessly expressive, triple threat Liam Redford is undeniably Broadway-bound. But the 13-year-old isn't waiting until he's older to step into the spotlight. Liam's already played one of his dream roles, the title character in Billy Elliot: The Musical, in five regional productions of the show, beginning with his debut at the Grand Theater in Williamstown, NJ, and concluding at the Opera House Theatre Company in Wilmington, NC, this past summer. In less than two years, Liam performed as Billy exactly 100 times, but he says he never got tired of the role, finding something new to explore and appreciate in every show (can you say #professional?). A seasoned storyteller, Liam hasn't just excelled in the role of Billy–most recently, he performed in Fun Home at the Front Throw Theatre Company in Philadelphia, while continuing to train in dance, voice and acting.

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Rising Stars

We're always here for a good dance-tech collab. If it involves genius choreographer Kyle Hanagami? Even better. How about Kyle Hanagami and a crew of A-list dancers? Yes please. What about Kyle Hanagami, A-list dancers, and a device that might actually be useful to dancers and choreographers? That's a YAAAAAAAS.

The new Google Nest Hub Max has a nifty feature: You can use hand signals to start and stop music on the device, without actually touching it. The smart folks at Google recognized that that's the kind of thing choreographers could use all the time. (How convenient not to have to walk back and forth across the studio repeatedly while you're working out a phrase?) So they got Hanagami to make a video illustrating exactly how handy the Nest is.

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Dance Videos
Courtesy Anna Marchisello

If you're in high school, working after school/on the weekends/over the summer may be a reality you're not keen to face. After all, you've got enough to worry about: homework, rehearsals, technique classes, and maybe even college applications. But a job doesn't have to mean babysitting or folding sweaters at Madewell. Instead, you can develop the same communication, organizational, and leadership skills—not to mention earn a little green—by working at the very place you likely already spend the most time: your dance studio.

Teaching is probably the first studio job that comes to mind, but there are other roles that can be invaluable to your eventual career. "I grew up training hard as a dancer and studying visual arts, but I was also academic and analytical—I loved the rigorous side of school," says dancer Anna Marchisello, a former student at CC & Co. Dance Complex in Raleigh, NC, who has assisted Stacey Tookey and Kirsten Russell and works as a production manager in NYC with Jonathan Berger.

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Dancer to Dancer
First-year Radio City Rockette Mara Ranson (center) in rehearsal (Carl Scheffel, courtesy MSG Photo)

Every year, hundreds of dancers audition for a chance to become a Radio City Rockette. Only a lucky few make the cut—this season, there are 13 newbies on the line—but many of them go on to perform with the Rockettes for years. Dance Spirit had the chance to listen in as first-year Rockette Mara Ranson asked 10-year veteran Corey Whalen all her burning questions about what it's really like to dance in the world's most famous kickline.—as told to Helen Rolfe

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Dancers Dish
"The 12 Days of Christmas," featuring the Radio City Rockettes (courtesy MSG Photo)

Dream of performing the Radio City Rockettes' ultra-precise choreography? You'll need to learn some ultra-specific terminology! We asked four first-year Rockettes—fresh from learning all that choreo—to define a few useful phrases from their "secret" language.

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