Looking flawlessly glamorous while performing 300 eye-high kicks and eight 60-second costume changes during four high-energy live shows? It’s all in a day’s work for The Rockettes.
The storied high-precision dance troupe, which launched in St. Louis as the Missouri Rockets in 1925, will star in the 85th anniversary Radio City Christmas Spectacular, running Nov. 8 through 17 at Peabody Opera House. Audiences will experience a fresh spin on the classic holiday show, including the new double-decker bus ride through New York City at Christmas, and fan favorites The Parade of Wooden Soldiers and The Living Nativity. In addition to the live performance, all of the action will be broadcast on a 50-foot LED screen at the back of the stage. “It’s absolutely astounding to watch,” notes Nicole Shuman, who is celebrating her 11th year as a Rockette. “And it’s all very glamorous.”
But behind all the glamour, an immense amount of work goes into producing the high-quality performances. The Rockettes rehearse six hours a day, six days a week, perfecting symmetric dance steps and identical hair, makeup and costume details—down to the last matching earring, bobby pin and shining sequin. So when it’s time to hit the stage, fans better believe The Rockettes are ready. The dancers don more than 300 colorful costumes—even one that’s encrusted with 3,000 Swarovski crystals—and 1,200 pairs of shoes, along with hairpieces and accessories during eight 40- to 80-second ensemble changes. “We are as choreographed backstage as we are onstage,” Shuman says. Designated ‘dressers’ are part of a crew of more than 100 that seamlessly puts the performance onstage.
It all makes for a hectic, but exciting, lifestyle that becomes not just a job, but ‘a touring family,’ says fourth-year Rockette Samantha Beary-Burns. And she notes no work has ever been more fulfilling. “Not only do I get to perform and do something I love, but I’m part of families’ Christmas tradition and giving back to the community. Whenever you get to see the happy faces of the people you touch, that’s a blessing.”