Video: Secrets of the Rockettes’ Wooden Soldier FallI
t takes a lot of preparation to get 36 Rockettes in full costume (complete with red cheeks and a 3-foot-tall hat!) to flawlessly complete the ultimate trust fall on the Radio City Music Hall stage during the Christmas Spectacular number, “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.”
“My first year as a Rockette, when I learned the soldier fall, I remember it was so hard for me to figure out,” says Rockette Maranda L. “We learn it six girls at a time at first. Then we’ll add on a little more and do 18 girls, which is half the line.” Once all of the sections understand the mechanics of the fall, the entire group of 36 Rockettes practice the fall together.
Christmas Spectacular Director and Choreographer Julie Branam says the key 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 us Rockettes have the fall perfected 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 challenge to perfect the fall, we Rockettes love performing it for the audience: “You remember it’s an iconic part of the show,” says Rockette Maranda. “The audience loves it and it really is their favorite part of the show which makes it one of my favorite part of the show to perform!”