36 Rockettes: How We Perform the Iconic Wooden Soldier Fall
hen a full line of 36 Rockettes takes the Great Stage at Radio City Music Hall, we show audiences from around the world how amazing things can be created when a group works together towards a common goal. The entirety of the Christmas Spectacular is a stunning display of teamwork—from a cast and crew of more than 250 working together on and off the stage to execute each flawless 90-minute performance, to the intricate formations and choreography we share with you in each magical number. But no single element of the show represents the power of teamwork more precisely than our iconic soldier fall in “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.”
Christmas Spectacular Director and Choreographer Julie Branam says the key to the fall is perfect alignment between the dancers. “It starts by having someone rock up on their heels and start to go back. You raise your hands up, slide your hands through, and open your arms,” says Julie. “Their feet have to be completely lined up because you don’t want the fall to go one way or another because someone could get hurt.”
Once we’ve perfected the fall in rehearsal, we begin working on it in full costume on stage. “It feels completely different than in the rehearsal room,” says Rockette Maranda. The grandiose costumes, including those 3-foot-tall hats, add another element to the number.
“We have these big hats on that you have to keep straight,” says Julie. “You have to trust that your nose is going to get flattened a little bit but it’ll all be fine once it’s over. It is a complete team effort.”
Despite the hard work and focus it takes to meet this ultimate teamwork challenge show after show, we love performing it for the audience. The Rockettes have been doing this same Wooden Soldier Fall since 1933 (even the costumes have remained virtually unchanged!). “The audience loves it and it really is their favorite part of the show,” says Rockette Maranda, “which makes it one of my favorite part of the show to perform!”