The Day I Became One Of The Radio City Rockettes

I have had what are some pretty fantastic experiences in my life, some due to the existence of this blog and some for other reasons, whether I’m in the right place at the right time, I “go for” something, my sister “goes for” something, or because of other miscellaneous and wonderfully serendipitous events. I am always grateful for anything special that comes my way regardless of the reason, but some experiences make me geek out 100% because they are a perfect fit for my interests.

Last year at the BlogHer conference, I had one of those experiences. I was lucky enough to do a workout with Bob Harper, Personal Trainer and Workout God from “The Biggest Loser”. (Read my recap of that extraordinary workout here.) Being someone who not only loves working out (I know: if you also love working out, you’re all “YEAH!” and if you can’t stand working out, you’re all, “Does not compute…”), but also someone who has worked in health clubs for twenty years AND is a huge fan of “The Biggest Loser”, I felt like I had won the lottery. I still think about that morning and grin from ear to ear: it meant so much to me and I still draw inspiration from it (and him).

Fast forward to about a month ago when I received an invitation to enjoy a “high-kicking workout with the Radio City Rockettes”.

Um, WHAT??

I alternated between being speechless, in disbelief, and fist-pumping in the air while jumping for joy. The Rockettes are a New York institution. They are a dance world institution. World famous? Totally.

Better yet, the workout was not going to be at the conference hotel; it would be just up the street at Radio City Music Hall. I was stunned. I didn’t even mind that we needed to arrive between 6:30 and 6:45. (Truth be told, I’m a morning person anyway but I couldn’t believe that I heard some people say, “Oh, I was interested in doing that but that’s way too early for me.” IT’S THE ROCKETTES, people! But I digress…)

Note: For the rest of this post, I will be using a Geek-o-meter that is scaled from 1-10, with 10 being AMAZEBALLS.

I got up, dressed quickly, and left my two roommates sleeping (um, forgetting that I had promised to wake Michelle, resulting in her missing her workout with the Bowflex people…STILL SORRY, MICHELLE!) and walked down the street to Radio City with a group of other girls who were also headed that way. (Geek-o-meter: 6.5)

Steamy morning at Radio City...

We had to show ID to security and when we were allowed into the elevators to go upstairs, we were all buzzing with excitement: we were told that the public tours never go to the areas where we were about to spend time. We also learned from a gentleman who escorted us upstairs that the girls who are engaged during the Rockettes season tend to get married in February because they are in such good shape. (Geek-o-meter: 7)

We passed these relics from long ago in the hallway…

These old girls were still glam.

…and walked by the wardrobe department. I would love to have seen more costumes but getting a glimpse of these was pretty darn exciting. (Geek-o-meter: 8)

Rockette wardrobe! Would love to have seen more.

The hallways upstairs are covered with etched mirrors commemorating artists who have had sold out shows at Radio City Music Hall, like Whitney Houston, Prince and the New Power Generation, and Reba McEntire:

Reba sold out. In a good way.

After hanging out in a lounge area until everyone arrived, we were divided into two groups, and each group went into a large dance studio. (Geek-o-meter: 8)

The first thing we did once we were in the studio was make two lines and then rearrange ourselves so each line had the tallest girls in the middle, working down to the shortest girls on either end (Rockette secret!).

Getting instructions from our Rockette tutors...

Our Rockette instructors were Jennifer and Lindsay, who have been Rockettes for thirteen and nine years, respectively. (wow!)

Our Rockette teachers for the day...

I loved their shoes.

Great shoes!

After we were all lined up by height and picked a number on the floor to remember so we would always have a mark, we got down to business, starting with some dynamic stretching. (Geek-o-meter: 8.5)

Once our legs were warmed up, we learned how to do the march of the toy soldier from their Christmas Spectacular show. (Geek-o-meter: 9) The trick? Totally straight legs, arms glued to sides, moving with your hips, teeny steps. We learned all about “guiding”, which is how they make sure to stay in a perfectly straight line. What you have to do is basically stare at the chest level of the girl who is two away from you. It’s more difficult to stay in line than you would think.

Someone asked about the fall they do in the show, and how difficult it is. One of the girls said that it is very difficult because you’re basically holding a plank position for the duration, and once the line falls towards the taller girls in back it’s even harder. Check this out, and OY:

We did not do the fall, in case you were wondering.

After we practiced our toy soldier march for a few minutes it was time to learn how to perform in a kick line. (Geek-o-meter: 9) If you are not familiar with the Rockettes’ routines and kick line, check this out (but fast-forward to 3:00, because that Santa sure is a talker!):

We learned how to stand with the “Rockettes Bevel” (which is, by the way, a very flattering position to be in when someone takes your picture) and then started with a knee-high kick. (Geek-o-meter: 10) We only did two sets of eight kicks, all together in our kick lines, but it was like we were Leonardo DiCaprio, screaming on the bow of the Titanic. We whooped and hollered and clapped…and wanted more.

It was time to try the eye-high kick. Obviously most of us couldn’t get there, but we gave it our best shot. It was very exciting even to try it.

Jennifer and Lindsay taught us how to connect to the girls on either side of us in line by curving our right arm up and placing our hand near the upper back of the girl on the right (no touching: just barely feeling the fabric on their back!), and sliding our left hand straight across the back of the girl on the left. This had to be done in one move, on a “5, 6, 7, 8…go”. Getting that move and holding the position was tough, and I could feel my back muscles burning. I was thinking of my Dailey Method friends throughout the morning, but it was at this moment when I thought of TDM Naperville co-owner Michelle, who had told me she had always wanted to be a Rockette. I totally geeked out for both of us as my Geek-o-meter hit 11.

When Jennifer and Lindsay ran us through a routine that consisted of a bevel, knee-high kicks, eye-high kicks, a step back, two steps forward and then a double bevel finish with our arms outstretched high above us, I started to well up with tears. Shut up. At that moment I was so, so grateful for the experience I had been given and can say that I was enjoying myself with every single fiber of my being. For me, those kinds of moments are the best in life. Good or bad, if you can feel your emotions coursing through your body as you live in the moment, you’re doing something right. I will never forget my morning with the Radio City Rockettes, and would be happy to step in as a sub should they ever need me: at five feet seven inches I’m totally within the five feet six inch to five feet ten inch height requirement.

What?? Too much?

Wish I could do it all over again!

You bet your bippy I bought one of these Rockette t-shirts.

Radio City Music Hall through my pop art filter. THIS is what it feels like to be a Rockette.

(Thanks to BlogHer conference sponsors Centrum and Caltrate for providing this experience for me and about ninety-nine other women!)