This Dec. 14, a New York institution descends on
Chicago. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular brings its glitz,
glamour and very high kicks to the Akoo Theatre for a two-week
holiday run. To celebrate, we talked to two local Rockettes,
Kristina Larson-Hauk of Yorkville and Gabrielle Del Re Ashley of
Pingree Grove, to get the behind-the-scenes scoop.
Rockettes have to be between 5' 6" and 5' 10 1/2" tall
(not counting those ultra-high heels). In kick lines, they stand
with the tallest women in the middle, moving down to the shortest
on the ends, which creates the illusion that they're doing
everything in unison.
Those famous kicks have a name-"eye-high kicks"-but
they're not the only thing a Rockette has to do. Their style of
dance, called precision dance, actually is a combination of ballet,
jazz, tap and modern dance.
The Rockettes have eight costume changes (some as short as
90 seconds!) throughout the show. The favorite costume among the
Rockettes? The gowns for the final number, "Let Christmas Shine,"
which are festooned with more than 3,000 crystals.
Rockettes have to be at least 18 to audition, and they
must re-audition each year. Hauk has been kicking for 13 years,
while Del Re has been with the Rockettes for 14. And veteran
dancers teach the rookies the Rockette ropes.
You might think there's an army of stylists backstage
poised to give the girls their signature look. But the Rockettes
actually have to do their own hair-everyone wears a French
twist-and makeup-that bright red lipstick that can be seen from the
From the audience, it looks like the Rockettes link arms
or at least hold on to each other during those famous kick lines.
But they aren't allowed to touch each other; they "feel the fabric"
of their neighbors' costumes and rely on their core strength to
During the holiday season, they average two shows a day,
but they can't just sit back and relax afterward. Many of the
Rockettes are professional dancers and/or actors, so they stay busy
throughout the year. Plus, they do charity work, such as visiting
children's hospitals, supporting the troops and putting on benefit
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular kicked off in 1933,
and two of the original numbers still light up the stage. Perennial
favorites "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and "The Living Nativity"
(including live animals!) remain audience highlights.
This year's show has been spiced up with three new
numbers: kid-friendly "Here Comes Santa Claus∫ and "Magic is
There," and "New York at Christmas," featuring a life-size
double-decker bus and a 50-foot LED screen that transports the
audience right to the Big Apple.
The Christmas Spectacular might be an iconic New York
production, but this year's show also will be staged in Nashville,
St. Louis, Dallas and Chicago. It hasn't stopped in the Windy City
since 2008, though, making this year a great time to start a new
Elizabeth Diffin is the senior editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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