Rachel Quiner performs Clara in the Christmas Spectacular (courtesy Rachel Quiner)

Meet the Claras of the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular"

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.


What's your favorite part of performing Clara in the Christmas Spectacular?

Emerson Tate Alexander: My favorite part is at the end of my dance when I strike my final pose sitting on the bear prince's shoulder, and I hear the crowd erupt. It's such an amazing feeling!

JosaBella Morton: Dancing on the stage of Radio City Music Hall is magical. My favorite part starts at the very beginning of the Nutcracker scene. The moment I "wake up," I try to captivate the attention of each audience member in hopes that they feel the same Christmas magic I feel at that very moment.

Rachel Quiner: I love looking out into the audience as the Nutcracker scene is just beginning. It's magical to see the lights shine down on the stage.

What are some of the challenges you've had to overcome for this role?

Emerson: Dancing on a non-traditional dance floor and having a really tall dance partner. The stage at Radio City Music Hall is wood and steel, and my dance partner is a huge bear!

JosaBella: One of the biggest challenges for me is the flooring. I'm used to dancing on a marley, so during the shows, I've added a small piece of rubber at the tip of my pointe shoes to keep from slipping.

Rachel: The first year I performed in the Christmas Spectacular as Clara, I was 10 years old. I didn't have much partnering experience and struggled to master the finger turn with the bear prince.

Emerson Alexander performing in the "Nutcracker" scene of the "Christmas Spectacular" (courtesy Madison Square Garden)

Do you still get nervous before you go onstage? If so, what do you do to calm your nerves?

Emerson: Yes! But prior to the show, I review the choreography and remind myself that I am fully prepared for the dance.

JosaBella: For the first few shows I felt really nervous, but I don't get as nervous now. Often I meditate in the wings while the Rockettes perform their "Twelve Days of Christmas number" which is right before my Nutcracker number.

Rachel: I don't get too nervous anymore. The Christmas Spectacular team does a great job preparing you for the role. Once you rehearse the steps and are comfortable with the choreography, it's fun to just go onstage and dance for the audience!

What have you enjoyed about performing with the Rockettes?

Emerson: The Rockettes are an unbelievable family of amazingly talented women who are super kind and friendly! They are wonderful role models.

JosaBella: I love the Rockettes! They bring the best energy onstage, offstage, in the wings, and throughout all of Radio City Music Hall. I've enjoyed making friends with them, too. They'll often leave good luck messages in my dressing room. Sometimes when we're on stage together or in the wings, we'll make funny faces or create little handshakes.

Rachel: The Rockettes are really nice and so inspiring! They work super hard and are very supportive of the Claras. During dress rehearsals, they always cheer for us in the Nutcracker scene.

JosaBella Morton dances Clara in the "Christmas Spectacular" (courtesy M.S.G.)

How do you keep things fresh when performing the same role over and over?

Emerson: I know that every show is special because the audience is never the same. I want the person in the front row to enjoy the show just as much as the person in the rear of the balcony.

JoseBella: I continuously try to push myself to be better with each new show.

Rachel: I enjoy performing as Clara. Even though this is my third year of dancing the role in nearly 70 shows, I never get tired of it. I see each performance as a fresh opportunity to brighten someone's day.

Dance-wise, what have you learned from performing as Clara?

Emerson: I've learned multiple partnering techniques that I'll use for future performances.

JoseBella: "Teamwork makes the dream work!" Being part of such a large and amazing cast and crew has taught me that you have to work together and be supportive of one another.

Rachel: I'm working on mastering consistency in my performances, which will help me in the future. When I feel tired or am having an off day, I try to push through it to deliver a great performance.

The 2017 Claras (from left): Emerson Alexander, Rachel Quiner, and JosaBella Morton (courtesy Rachel Quiner)

If you were to give advice to next year's cast of Claras, what would you say?

Emerson: I would say…congratulations! This will be an amazing experience. Do what you love and love what you do.

JoseBella: Take it all in! Work hard. Be yourself. Live each day thankful that you get to be here and dance on this amazing stage. It has truly been an honor and dream come true to play Clara in the Christmas Spectacular.

Rachel: Don't take a single moment for granted. Soak up every second of the experience. It all goes by so fast. I've made such wonderful friendships with the cast and crew of the Christmas Spectacular and I dearly love each one of my Clara sisters from these past three years!

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.

Aries

You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)

Taurus

As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.

Gemini

Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).

Cancer

Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.

Leo

We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.

Virgo

You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.

Libra

Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.

Scorpio

You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?

Sagittarius

You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.

Capricorn

You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.

Aquarius

Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.

Pisces

Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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