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December 27, 2012

A Look Back to the Rockettes Over 85 Years

The Rockettes are a precision dance company founded in 1925 and since 1935 have performed out of Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York City. During the Christmas season, the Rockettes present five shows a day, seven days a week. Perhaps their best-known routine is an eye-high leg kick in perfect unison in a chorus line, which they include at the end of every performance.

Their style of dance is a mixture of modern dance and classic ballet. Auditions to become a Rockette are always in April in New York City. Women who audition must show efficiency in several genres of dancing, mainly ballet, tap, modern, and jazz. Normally, four hundred to five hundred women will audition yearly.

Even in the beginning, there were strict standards for height, physique, and flexibility—here, a rehearsal in cheerleader-esque sweaters and skirts

Onstage in 1937, the Rockettes cut a sharp, diagonally receding line—in white and top hats—against the dark backdrop. Originally just one line of dancers, the Rockettes today encompass two 40-girl casts.

The troupe’s famous “Parade of the Wooden Soldier” routine originated in the 1930s and remains an integral part of the show in 2012.

Today, the wooden soldiers—still in Minnelli-esque costumes—collapse like a wall of dominoes at the firing of a cartoonish cannon.

Rehearsal in 1942, at which the Rockettes stretch out their famous stems. Compared with modern-day rehearsals, where Rockettes wear identical black-spandex uniforms, all the girls here are in their own kicky skirts and character heels.

Standing at attention as sailors in the 1940s.

In white satin and jaunty hats, the group forms a perfect circle at Radio City in December of 1944.

Ready to board a ship that will freight them to various U.S.O. performances during World War II, the Rockettes look the part in their military-inspired suits and miniature garrison hats, perched on their waves.

In rufflier takes on the soldier costumes, Rockettes apply final lipstick, zip each other into their suits, and affix ruffly details to their patent shoes before a performance.

Two of the zebras flaunt their stripes—including flirty and anthropologically accurate tasseled tails.

Backstage at the vanity area in 1952, the Rockettes set their makeup with powder, adjust their stockings, and stick in their final bobby pins before going onstage.

The trademark girly Santa suits that would become a hallmark of Rockettes shows, shown here in 1950—they are trimmed in fuzzy white marabou.

A beaming, space-suited Rockette gets her astronaut gear tweaked by nasa engineers—slash, the costume shop—backstage in the 60s.

The famous high kick! At the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in 1964, the Rockettes (in teensy onesies) perform in front of thousands of bundled-up onlookers.

Pink and green and beehives—and some tap-inspired choreography—for the parade in 1966, at which the Rockettes appear to have been the opener for Smoky the Bear (back right).

In 1967, the girls took traditional Christmassy red and green and put them on cancan costumes, complete with Spanish-inspired hats and sexy seamed stockings.

The parade-dancing routine embraced the 1970s with sparkling chokers, feather-sprouting showgirl hats, and thicker tights. The caption that ran with this photo in a 1973 edition of the New York Daily News? “Just to make sure Dad doesn’t get bored . . . ”

Top hats, tails, and gold-lamé underwear for—what else?—a Liberace concert at Radio City in 1985. The Rockettes would perform with Liberace for several engagements in New York in the 1980s.

Santa can high-kick, too.

The 1998 Thanksgiving Day–parade troupe looks ahead to Christmas in green velvet, white fur, and an “I’m freezing!” pose.

A handful of Rockettes strike a balletic pose at rehearsal, at which they all wear standard-issue black outfits and footless tights. The floor’s tape marks complex blocking for the Christmas Spectacular routines.

At 85, the troupe still reprises bits of earlier shows (a candy-cane motif on these costumes) and its trademark choreography.

Earlier this year, the Rockettes—in silver-fringed leotards—strike a pose in front of a packed house.

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