November 2008 Issue
Kicking off the Holidays
The Radio City Rockettes have a leg up on Christmas cheer.
Toy soldiers on parade. A living nativity. Waltzing teddy bears. And the most famous kick line in the world. It’s Christmastime in the city near you, as the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes” takes center stage in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton.
For 75 years, the dance troupe has stepped lively in New York’s legendary Radio City Music Hall, and the lavish holiday show has become as much a part of winter in Manhattan as horse-and-carriage rides through Central Park and ice-skating at Rockefeller Center. To spread the cheer, touring companies bring a bit of the Big Apple to audiences around the country at this time of year.
“There’s something so magical about the show,” says Cincinnati’s Kara Jones, who’s been a Rockette for two seasons. “It brings tears to my eyes when I see my leg as part of the famous kick line that I’ve admired since I was a child.”
Jones, who also teaches dance at Cincinnati’s Ballet Theatre Midwest, was smitten by the ensemble when she was a toddler, after watching them perform in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“[Every year], I had to be in front of the television set right when the parade started because the Rockettes were usually on first,” she recalls with a smile. “I was totally captivated by their moves and their family-style entertainment. What they do really fits my personality.”
Jones honed her dancing technique at Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania, where her teachers encouraged the talented senior to try out for the legendary dance team. Rockettes range in height from 5-foot-6 inches to 5-foot-10-and-a-half inches and, while in formation, the tallest women are in the center of the line to give the illusion of uniformity. So, at 5-foot-9, Jones was a natural.
The six-days-a-week, six-hours-a-day rehearsals can be grueling, Jones admits, so she’s appreciative of the camaraderie that’s as much a part of the show as the eye-high kicks are.
“A lot of it comes from the fact that we are a single unit dancing together — there are no soloists and no prima ballerina,” she says. “And it takes a lot of teamwork to make the precision steps the line is famous for work.”
Mayfield Heights native Toni Rhodus is celebrating her 12th season with the troupe. She took her first dance steps at age 3 in her aunt’s studio in Lynchburg.
“I saw dancing as simply a fun activity,” the 5-foot-7-and-a-half-inch Towson University grad says. “I’m so thankful I actually was able to make a career out of doing something I love.”