‘Tis the Season: Rockette Hopefuls Reaching for Their Dreams

By Kendra Callari

Although you may be busy soaking up the sun’s rays and enjoying all things summer, the holiday season was in full swing on Monday, August 10th in New York City where there were open call Rockettes auditions for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

Over 400 dancers—coming from all over the world—lined up outside Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater wishing and hoping to be a part of the iconic holiday performance.

“I am really excited! I thought I was going to be really nervous waking up this morning,” said California-native, Kaitlyn C. “But I’ve seen a lot of good friends and have danced in this building for the Alvin Ailey program. I’m just really inspired and ready to go!”

Over 400 dancers lined up outside Alvin Ailey Dance Theater for auditions

Over 400 dancers lined up outside Alvin Ailey Dance Theater for auditions

While these Rockette hopefuls train all year to be a part of the team (you must be between 5’6″ and 5’10½” tall, and have the stamina to perform in up to five ninety-minute shows at the height of the Christmas season), the audition itself is intense and can be over within minutes if you miss a beat.

“It’s hard for the women, because they have to be on their game the whole day—if they have one mess up, that can kick them out of the running,” said Michael Donaghy, the Rockettes’ Production Manager and Talent Assistant.

There are dancers who stand out from the beginning, but one of the first things the Production team looks for is basic technique—like pirouettes and kicks. After a very short combination requiring basic technique, the dancers then move on to a longer ballet combination, tap combination and kick combination—with several cuts made throughout the day.

In a dancer’s world, becoming a Rockette is worth all the sweat, tears and hard work. But beneath the glitz and glamour of any Rockette is a dancer who has mastered our rigorous precision dance technique.

“The main thing the Rockettes do is precision dance—they have to do everything the same as the girl next to them, the girl next to them, and so on,” said Donaghy. “We’re looking for very specific details at this audition—we really have to look at each one individually to see if they’re taking the notes and get what we’re saying.”

“We’re just looking for the best of the best.”