We Tried It: Becoming a Rockette For a Day (Hint: It's Both Incredibly Inspiring and Intimidating)
Associate beauty editor Jillian Ruffo goes behind the scenes at Radio City Music Hall
What It Is: The Rockettes are gearing up for the opening of the New York Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall on June 15, so we went behind the scenes to see all of the glitz and glam that goes on before they hit the stage and learn a part of the Vogue routine they perform in the show.
Who Tried It: Jillian Ruffo, Associate Beauty Editor
Why I Did It: When I was little, my ballet and gymnastics instructor was a former Rockette, and all I wanted to do was to follow in her footsteps. But I lacked height (I’m only 5-feet-tall) and nimble feet (yeah, they’re flat), so I didn’t exactly follow through with that plan. When the opportunity came to spend a day with the dancers themselves, I couldn’t pass it up.
Level of Difficulty: Um, 10 out of 10! Sure, these ladies make everything look beyond easy — but trust me, it’s far from it. That’s why they’re the pros!
What Really Happened: When I was originally presented with the opportunity to spend a day with the Rockettes, I jumped at it. A day of glam and learning how to kick? Count me in. But as the big day approached, I became more and more nervous. By now, over 10 years have gone by since I last tried to learn a routine of any sort, and the idea of eight-counts with some of the most amazing dancers in N.Y.C was a frightening thought, to say the least.
But, alas, I jumped right in. As I made my way up to the Rockettes’ dressing room at Radio City Music Hall, I couldn’t believe what I was about to get myself into. There were six Rockettes waiting for me in their sparkling costumes as soon as I walked through their backstage curtain, and that’s when the excitement really kicked in.
After meeting each one, it was time to get ready. First things first: a Rockette-worthy makeup lesson. One by one, the ladies taught me all of their secrets for making their makeup last through an entire performance — foundation, red lips, lashes and all — right in the backstage space they get ready every night for their shows.
Next up: Hair. While I was looking forward to the French twist the Rockettes are known for wearing during their annual Christmas show, I learned that it’s been swapped out in exchange for a modern, super-slick side bun for the spring show. Thankfully, two of the Rockettes did my hair for me, pulling and twisting it into place. Thirty bobby pins and a ton of hairspray later, I was ready to dance.
While I didn’t get to sparkle in one of their iconic performance costumes, I did slip into their go-to rehearsal outfit — a bedazzled Rockettes tank, a pair of clip-on earrings and silver shoes identical to the ones that they wear to perform.
Next we headed to the rehearsal room, which is where the Rockettes actually practice for the show. (Before an opening, they practice up to eight hours a day, six days a week –intense!). The second they showed me what I’d be learning, I knew I was in for it. What looks like a series of super-easy arm and hand movements actually felt nearly impossible as soon as the music turned on. I was barely able to pick it up, and as the day went on, I grew more and more in awe of their talent.
At the end of the dance lesson, they asked me if I wanted to try out their famous high kicks. I was so pumped! The ladies taught me how they “hook up,” or how they lock arms in unison before a kicking routine. (Fun fact: they never touch each other’s backs when they’re in line!) I then learned their signature “bevel” position (when one toe points in front of the other), and how exactly how to kick in unison. And although I was the smallest of the bunch (the shortest Rockette is 5 ft. 6 in.), I felt like I finally fit in — even if it was just for a few hours.
Watch the video above to see how I did, and go see The Rockettes in the New York Spectacular, which runs from June 15th until August 7th!
— Jillian Ruffo