Monday, November 21st, 2011
Between my trip to Sesame Street over the summer and some recent events here in New York City, I have to say it’s been quite a year. I was recently invited to bring my 6-year-old daughter Julia for a private tour of Radio City Music Hall, followed by a dance lesson with The Radio City Rockettes. (Are you serious!?) When we arrived, we were greeted by Rockettes Kate and Lindsey, who joined us for our tour led by our delightful guide, Joyce. She’s been doing this for 11 years, so she has the knowledge of a true Radio City veteran–but with the enthusiasm of a newbie. Joyce led us into the Grand Foyer and gave us the backstory on the Art Deco theme and the breathtaking crystal Christmas tree, which must be seen to be appreciated:
Then we entered the music hall itself and learned that the layout and decor was reminiscent of a 1930s luxury liner, which is what entrepreneur and Radio City creator Samuel Lionel “Roxy” Rothafel was traveling on when he was searching for design inspiration. Even though the hall feels huge, I was surprised to learn that it seats more than 6,000–but then again, it does have the distinction of being the largest indoor theater in the world. We sat in the orchestra and then all the way up in the third mezzanine so Joyce could prove the point that there really are no bad seats. (Doesn’t hurt that the main stage is a full city block wide.)
We moved on to Roxy’s private apartment. He never lived there, but he did lots of entertaining. Fun fact: In the dining room, the ceiling was built in a way that encouraged optimum acoustics no matter how softly one whispered around the round dining table. The table itself is pretty cool, too; instead of leaves, it has a removable outer ring to make the table smaller. After a brief movie about the inner workings of the building–which Julia later described as her favorite part of the day (wha?)–we said goodbye to Joyce and headed to the rehearsal hall for the dance lesson.
And this is where Kate and Lindsey, who have been Rockettes for four and three years respectively, took over. They were the perfect ambassadors to teach us about the history and legacy of the most famous dance line of all. More than once (or five times) as they spoke, Julia would reach out and touch their Swarovski crystal-covered costume and bracelets–she was seriously dazzled. They were really excited to tell us about the new features of this year’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which include 3D scenes, never-seen-before numbers, and a clever premise where the Rockettes battle the Humbugs who are out to mess with the Christmas spirit.
The dance lesson began and I lurked in the background, snapping away. Kate and Lindsey showed Julia a basic routine (actually, it wasn’t that basic for a 6-year-old) and went over it many, many times. This was fantastic for Julia. She says she wants to be a singer when she grows up–and a teacher and as of two weeks ago, a firefighter as well. If this kid wants to be a performer, I can’t think of a better way to show her the dedication and work it requires than through this dance lesson. For more than 30 minutes, Kate and Lindsey went over it time and again, adding steps and nuances along the way. I could tell Julia was getting tired but every time one of the Rockettes asked if she wanted to try it again, she nodded enthusiastically. Here’s a clip from early on in the lesson:
Not bad, right?
When the lesson ended, the Rockettes presented Julia with a bag of Radio City- and Rockettes-themed treats. Once she discovered the chocolate bars, we lost her–she never regained her focus. So when Katie and Lindsey asked if we had any questions, only I had one: Could we see those “eye-high kicks” they’re so famous for? They graciously replied that we couldn’t, because they weren’t properly warmed up. (Duh! I should have known that even a Rockette can’t fling her shin up to her forehead on demand.)
Then, to top off the whole experience, Julia and I, along with my husband and 3-year-old daughter, went to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular itself last week. It would have been an incredible night regardless, but we felt even more special to have heard the behind-the-scenes stories and to recognize some of the steps in the show–and most fun of all, to look for our new friends Kate (ninth from left!) and Lindsey (third from center!) every time those Rockettes lined up in their truly spectacular formation.
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