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

How to Speak Rockette

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.


ABOUT-FACE

"This is a military term, so I had no idea what it meant when we started learning 'Parade of the Wooden Soldiers'! It's a 180-degree turn of your entire body, done as sharply, efficiently, and smoothly as possible." —Sydney Mesher

The Rockettes performing "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" (courtesy MSG Photo)

CHEEK

"This is when you face straight front and turn your head to one corner, but leave your eyes in the mirror." —Soultana Schiavi

COVERING OFF

"You're 'covered off' to another dancer when you're dancing or standing exactly behind her, so that theoretically you would completely disappear behind her when viewed from certain angles." —SM

The Rockettes on their famous "bus tour" of Manhattan (courtesy MSG Photo)

ELBOW PLACEMENTS

"When your hands are on your hips, there are three elbow placements. A 'flat elbow' means your elbows point straight to either side. 'Perpendicular elbow' is more of a natural position, with the shoulders back and chest open. For an 'extreme back elbow,' you pull your elbows together behind you so they point to the back as much as possible." —Abbey Kowalec

The Rockettes performing as reindeer in "Sleigh Ride" (courtesy MSG Photo)

DEPTH

"To help us figure out our exact spacing, the Radio City stage is marked like a grid. Running stage left to stage right are a series of lines: dotted, then solid, then dotted, then solid. A 'depth' is the space between a particular set of lines." —Regan Hutsell

GUIDING RIGHT

"As Rockettes, we always 'guide right.' That means that in a kickline or formation, I confirm my spacing based on where the dancer to my right is. We each 'guide right' all the way down to the stage-right end—that's how our formations stay so clean!" —SM

Rockettes in the famous "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" fall (Courtesy MSG Photo)

SUNSHINE HEAD

"When our eyes are front, but our heads are turned and tilted back, as if sunshine were streaming down on our cheeks." —SS

HEELING/TOEING

"These are two common spacings—one where your heels are right in front of a particular line ('heeling'), and one where your toes are right behind a line ('toeing')." —RH

The Rockettes perform another kickline in "New York at Christmas" (courtesy MSG Photo)

HOH

"Just a cute way to say 'hands on hips'!" —AK

THIRD-MEZZ HEAD

"Another head position, in which your head should be pointing in the direction of the third mezzanine, with your eyes following." —SS

The finale of "Christmas Lights" (courtesy MSG Photo)

REV BEV

"A bevel, but in relevé. Having been a ballet dancer growing up, I love that combination of ballet terminology and the signature Rockette bevel." —AK

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.

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