Diana Kelly Levey

Fun Facts about the Radio City Rockettes

radio city rockettes history and facts

December 2, 2018 | Categories:

There is no better place to be during the holidays than at the Christmas Spectacular getting into the yuletide spirit with the Rockettes! Between our iconic dance numbers (“Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” anyone?!) and ice skaters swirling across the stage to Santa spreading Christmas cheer, it’s the best of the season in one spectacular experience. As you can imagine, this annual tradition is full of rich history—after all, it’s been more than 85 years since the show’s inception! From the Rockettes being inspired by a British dance troupe to the amount of rosy red cheeks wardrobe goes through each season, we’re giving you a look into the lesser-known tidbits about us and America’s most beloved holiday family show:

The History of the New York Radio City Rockettes

The Rockettes were inspired by John Tiller’s “Tiller Girls.”

The Rockettes began kicking up their shoes since Russell Markert, the Rockettes’ chief choreographer, image-preserver and resident “father figure” of the famous troupe until he retired in 1971, founded the exemplary American chorus line—an exciting precision dance company with great style, flair and glamour—in 1925. Inspired by the British dance troupe formed by John Tiller (“The Tiller Girls” performed in a 1922 Ziegfeld Follies production), Russell wanted to achieve absolute precision and ultimate uniformity in the movements of the dancers.

We weren’t always called the “Rockettes.” The dancers known as the “Missouri Rockets” made their show debut in St. Louis. That same year, the troupe traveled to New York City to perform in the Broadway show Rain or Shine, and were discovered by showman S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel. The “Missouri Rockets” were such an instant hit that Rothafel was loath to let them leave after their performances at the Roxy Theatre. Rothafel pleaded with Markert to form another line to replace the departing “Missouri Rockets.” While there were three separate dance troupes performing in New York City at that time, Rothafel moved two of the troupes to Radio City Music Hall for its opening night on Dec. 27th, 1932 where they performed a routine to the song “With a Feather in Your Cap.” He dubbed the chorus line the “Roxyettes.” Two years later, the “Roxyettes” officially became the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.

Over 3,000 women have performed as Rockettes.

Since the Christmas Spectacular’s opening night in 1933, more than 3,000 women have shared in the legacy by performing as a Rockette. It’s the ultimate sisterhood!

Millions (and millions!) have seen the show.

The Christmas Spectacular has been seen by more than 75 million people since the New York holiday tradition officially began in 1933.

It takes more than 250 people to stage the Christmas Spectacular. 

There is a cast of 150 that includes us Rockettes, singers, dancers, musicians, figure skaters (and more!) and a cast and crew who “loads in” the production weeks before opening night.

There’s a morning and afternoon cast.

There are a total of 80 Rockettes—40 Rockettes in each cast, and only 36 of us perform onstage at a time. Each cast has four “swings” who can fill in the spots for nine of the women on the line.

They can kick up to 1,200 times in one day.

Rockettes do about 300 kicks per show and perform in up to four shows a day during busy periods!

Over 1,100 costumes are worn by the cast in each show.

More than 1,100 colorful costumes are worn in the Christmas Spectacular—from the Rockettes to the ensemble and singers.

Read the entire article on Rockettes.com.

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