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Parade of the Wooden Soldiers: Behind-the-Scenes With the Rockettes

The Christmas Spectacular has been a holiday entertainment tradition since the 1930s. Over the years, the show has evolved—dances have been added, costumes updated and technology enhanced (the show currently has the largest flying indoor LED screen!)

But one thing hasn’t changed over time.

The classic Christmas Spectacular number, “The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” actually predates the Christmas Spectacular and Radio City Music Hall itself! The number is first known to have been performed in 1923 (10 years before the first Christmas Spectacular) at the Capitol Theater in New York back when the Rockettes were known as the Roxyettes (they later became the Rockettes in 1934).

The number was also performed at the first Christmas Spectacular, and has been ever since. And it has become synonymous with the dance company.

“It’s the epitome of what the Rockettes are. It is precision dancing, but this number has been around and in the show since 1933. It’s definitely a fan favorite,” says Rockette Sarah.

One of the audience’s (and the dancers’) favorite parts of the number is the iconic costumes. Designed by Vincente Minnelli, they have remained virtually unchanged over the years, with their signature white pants, feathered hats and rosy red cheeks. Being in costume can also be a little surreal for the dancers. When Rockette Natalie was getting fitted for her first wooden soldier costume, it all hit her. She says: “Seeing myself in the mirror in that costume, I had to pinch myself. I was just like, ‘My gosh, this is happening … this is a Rockette.'”

Being a part of history is also a special experience. Natalie adds, “From 1933, seeing these women, these strong, independent women that were Rockettes doing the same exact thing … It’s just really neat to have that little piece of history and be a part of such an awesome tradition.”