Working out the logistics of a Rockettes number is no easy task! With intricate formations, seamless transitions and precise choreography, our Christmas Spectacular Director and Choreographer Julie Branam has her work cut out for her!
“I start with how I see the number laying out. So, I start with formations and what I can do with 36 people on that giant stage and then I decide dance steps and transitions,” says Julie. “Once I figure out what those transitions are, I color those ‘x’s’ so I can track people throughout the whole number.”
Part of the process involves representing each of us Rockettes as a specific letter on graph paper and visually laying out where each dancer is at each point on the stage.
“I’m an old-fashioned gal. I start with my graph paper and my colored pencils,” says Julie. “I start at the end of the number and I go from ‘a’ to ‘jj’, each one representing a Rockette, and work my way back to the top of the number so that everyone ends up in the line up at the end.”
Once the spaces and transitions are mapped out, Julie and her assistants add in specific movements and choreography. The process involves testing out each spot to ensure us Rockettes can make the travels smoothly while staying symmetrical.
“Sometimes the steps don’t work out or we’re too close to one another so I have to change the numbers,” says Julie. “Even though it’s a giant stage, when we’re in lineup every woman has two feet of space really, but a lot of dance moves take more than two feet.”
The goal is to create a routine that highlights the symmetrical and visually-pleasing aspects notorious in our Rockette productions: “It’s a giant puzzle! A giant piece of graph paper and making all of the pieces fall into position.”