One of the many things New York City is known for is the Rockettes, a professional precision dance group.
Since they’re most commonly seen in the annual “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” many of the performers’ experiences are linked to the holidays. One former Rockette visited dancers at the Las Vegas Academy during the holiday season and shared a snippet of what it is like to be a part of the “Christmas Spectacular.”
Professional dancer Amy King guided the academy’s dance students in performing high kicks and learning quick combinations while wearing dancing heels, all just a hair away from one another.
“Remember, precision dancing is much different than technical dancing,” King said.
Technical dancing deals with the dancer’s personal ability; precision dancing deals with the exactness of the movement in relation to others.
King was a Rockette for 10 years and stopped only when she and her husband decided to move to Las Vegas and start a family six years ago.
“Some of my favorite memories as a Rockette come from the ‘Christmas Spectaculars,’ ” she said. “And it is very fun to come and teach students of LVA every holiday season.”
As the 90-minute class progressed, the students began to feel more comfortable with the movement and were no longer stepping on one another’s feet.
“Rockette dancing is such a specific experience and it’s great to expose students to that,” King said. “I teach them a specific dance that we do every year as part of the ‘Spectacular.’ ”
Rockettes are known for being some of the tallest dancers around. The dancers must be between 5 feet, 6 inches and 5 feet, 10½ inches, to ensure the company has the utmost precision. Also, the dancers all wear character heels of the same height and the hems of their dresses are sewn so that they all match up evenly. They’re lined up with the tallest dancers in the center and the shortest on the ends so that the slight height difference goes unnoticed by the audience.
“For me, the most memorable part of being a Rockette had to be the people I worked with,” King said. “We had so much exposure to different styles, especially when celebrities taught us. Also, the camaraderie among the dancers is something I miss to this day.”
During the holiday season, Rockette dancers practice six days a week for eight hours a day, perfecting their famous eye-high kicks and more.
“I have a new incredible amount of respect for Rockettes,” student Brooke Cashin said. “They have so much stamina. For me, the eye-high kicks were the hardest to do. And, by the last kick, I was exhausted.”
King will return next year to expose even more students to Rockette dancing.
“I don’t get to do any Rockette-related teaching anymore,” she said, “so I really enjoy sharing my passion with others.”