Call it routine, ritual or superstition but almost all dancers, including us Rockettes, rely on some peculiar pre-performance habits to help guarantee a great show. Sure, it’s good sense to prepare well for something as physically demanding as a 90-minute performance (like the Christmas Spectacular!), however, dancers tend to take show-day customs to a whole new level.
Meticulous meal-planning. Leading up to showtime, any and all nosh is carefully selected and precisely timed to provide optimal energy or to avoid tummy turmoil. Rockette Lindsay H. always eats a peanut butter sandwich and a banana before each performance.
Order behind the scenes. Every step of preparation must be done in a particular order before taking the stage. “We get dressed in our ‘Reindeer’ costumes in our dressing rooms before the show. We under-dress our ’12 Days of Christmas’ cuffs with our costumes, so I always put those on first, then my tights, my unitard and my shoes in a very particular order—right first, left second,” says Rockette Taylor S. “I continue this ‘right before left’ order for the rest of the show; even my dressers have taken notice!”
Good luck charms. A surprising number of dancers find ways of hiding good luck charms on their bodies while they perform. Special rings get covered with tape, and small heirlooms or jewelry are quickly stitched into the interior of a costume. “Whenever we have any big special events, I always wear a pin that my grandmother had in her jacket. I will pin it to the inside of my costume or somewhere unseen; its nice to have her with me,” says Rockette Katie H.
Saying a little prayer. Even seasoned dancers get anxious before taking the stage! “Before each performance, I like to focus on deep breathing,” says Rockette Danni H. “This helps me get into my zone, focus and become present. And right before the curtain rises, I whisper a short prayer for guidance and calmness in my heart.
Gettin’ goofy. Some backstage rituals are done to bring luck or to unify the company. “Before the curtain rises, the Rockettes take their places for the opening dance number. Near the end of the overture, there is a point in the song that has three quick beats. One of my Rockette sisters and I will clap the three beats with the music and take our opening pose. It’s like our own ‘ready, set, go’ ritual,” says Rockette Bailey C. “It’s fun, make us giggle and puts us in a good mood for the show.”
Bust a move. Music can provide excellent inspiration and energize you for what’s to come. Rockette Sophie H. likes to play deejay in her dressing room and crank up some fun tunes before each performance. “We usually bust out some silly moves as we get into our opening costume!”
Clear those sinuses. Stuffy nose, sore throat or whatever it may be, clearing up those sinuses may have just been one of those tasks you do when you’re under the weather, but for Rockette Alyssa E., it turned into a ritual she must do before each show. “I blow my nose before every show right before I go onstage. It may sound silly, but it’s very important. Even if I don’t really have to, it has become a superstition.”