The Rockettes first kicked to life in 1925 as the “Missouri Rockets.” They made their show business debut in St. Louis, the realization of a dream by their creator, Russell Markert. This dream began when he saw John Tiller girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922. He wanted a group of American girls who were taller, had long legs, could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks.
At Radio City’s opening night, on December 27, 1932, they did just that. The Rockettes, were discovered and brought to New York by showman S.L. (Roxy) Rothafel who first dubbed them the “Roxyettes.” They shared the stage with 17 diverse acts, among them the Flying Wallendas, Ray Bolger and Martha Graham.
They were an instant sensation! Starting with just 16 women, the numbers grew over the years to what is now a 36-member Rockette kick line.
In 1933, Radio City featured a new movie and a lavish stage production every week starring the Rockettes. Russell Markert’s stringent requirements never varied, and he continued to stage and choreograph productions at the Music Hall until his retirement in 1971. This concept of the dance line was to achieve absolute precision. The audience saw 36 Rockettes perform intricate routines, but always moving as “one dancer.” Everything – the height, the costumes and steps – was kept completely identical. The illusion of uniform height is maintained to this day by putting the tallest dancers in the center and gradually decreasing the height with the shortest women at either end.
In addition to starring in the many Radio City Spectaculars that have made the Rockettes world famous, the dance group has also spread the magic of Radio City Music Hall far beyond New York. They’ve toured in Broadway productions such as Can Can, and with performers including Peter Allen, Liberace, Ann-Margret, Chita Rivera and Paula Abdul, among many others. They danced at the premieres of “Miracle on 34th Street,” “102 Dalmatians” and the premiere engagement of Disney’s “The Lion King.”
Today, the Rockettes play an integral role in many Radio City theatrical productions, special events and television productions. They star annually in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York and around the country. They’ve tapped their way through the dreams of thousands of young girls, many of whom hope to add their own legs to that world-famous kick line.
In addition to performing across North America, each year the Rockettes appear in the nationally televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, inspiring scores of young dancers nationwide. For several years, they’ve opened the “Daytime Emmy Awards,” broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall on ABC, and they have appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and the “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” They are even the inspiration for their own Rockette doll.
Since 1932, more than 3,000 women have danced as Rockettes. Each year, in cities across America, hundreds of young women audition to be members of the internationally known troupe. Radio City Rockettes must be between 5’5” and 5’10” and must demonstrate proficiency in tap, jazz, ballet and modern dance. They must also display a radiant energy that will shine across the footlights to their audience.
The Rockettes are a national Treasure