Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a holiday tradition for our family for as long as I can remember. The TV is always going while food is baking for our Thanksgiving meal but all activity stops when it’s time to watch the Radio City Rockettes. This year those of us in the midwest can actually go see the Rockettes without hopping on a plane, they will be performing at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater November 13 through the 30th, including Thanksgiving Day!The Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes, will make its Omaha debut this year. Recently I had the opportunity to interview two of the Rockettes who are both from the Midwest! Karilyn Surratt from St. Louis, MO and Rachel Borgam who is from Norfolk, NE. We spoke about what it takes to be a Rockette and what some of their favorite parts of the show are. I was surprised to learn that when the Rockettes are in the kick line they don’t actually touch each other, instead they do what they call a “fabric touch”.
The Rockettes have kicked their way into hearts for years and are well-known for their outstanding dancing and dazzling choreography. I enjoyed learning about what it takes to create create such an amazing show. Rachel and Karilyn were very encouraging and said to never give up on your dream. There are auditions twice a year to become a Rockette and all Rockettes must re-audition each year, Rachel auditioned four times before she became a Rockette each time it just made her practice more. To become a Rockette you must be between 5’6″-5’10”, be at least 18 years old, do ballet and tap, and have an awesome high-kick. As a matter of fact, you can continue to be a Rockette as long as you can get the high kicks, there are dancers who’ve been in the show for 26 years.
One of their favorite things about being a Rockette is the sense of sisterhood that they create with fellow dancers. They work together as a team 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, and often doing 4 shows a day through the dance season. In total there are 120 Rockettes who make up four separate casts. Somehow on top of all of that practice they still manage to find time to do their own hair and make up for each show. Just like any other sports team they have a physical trainer who travels with them and they line up for ice baths at the end of the day.
There are 47 cast members in each show and the dancers will change outfits 7 times through the show which means there are more than 300 costumes to be worn at each show. We were told that their favorite costume is for the Shine performance. They will sparkle from the stage as each Rockette costume is crystallized with more than 3,000 Austrian crystals. Their least favorite is the Reindeer because the hat is so heavy and tall.
The costume for The Wooden Soldier includes a 24″ tall hat and pants that are so heavily starched that it can stand up on its own – with no person inside to support it.
There have been many years that I watched the Rockettes and wondered how they stayed warm enough to perform during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Karilyn said that most years the excitement of the performance is so high that they don’t even notice the cold, but that there have been years where they have worn two pairs of tights and the costume crew has basted a thermal liner to the inside of the costume. Because Lizzie’s birthday has fallen on Thanksgiving several times she frequently tells us that for her birthday someday she’d like us to bring her to New York City to see the parade in real life. I think she might have to wait a few years for that to happen, but it is pretty awesome that we can go to Omaha this year to see them. Just in case you can’t wait that long to see them here’s a sneak peek!
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes will be at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased here. The show will run from Thursday, Nov 13, through Sunday, Nov 30.