Radio City Rockettes 2024

Radio City Rockettes are an American precision dance company. Founded 1925 in St. Louis, they have, since 1932 (92 years ago), performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. 

Until 2015, they also had a touring company. Radio City Rockettes are best known for starring in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, an annual Christmas show, and for performing annually since 1957 at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. 

There have been over 3,000 women who have performed as Radio City Rockettes since the New York Christmas Spectacular opening night in 1932. The Radio City Rockettes also conduct the Rockette Summer Intensive for dancers aspiring to be Rockettes. 

The Radio City Rockettes were originally inspired by the Tiller Girls, a precision dance company of the United Kingdom established by John Tiller in the 1890s. Tiller sent the first troupe of Tiller Girls to perform in the United States in 1900, and eventually there were three lines of them working on Broadway. In 1922, choreographer Russell Markert saw one of these troupes, known as the Tiller Rockets, perform in the Ziegfeld Follies and was inspired to create his own version with American dancers. 

As Markert would later recall, “If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks, they’d really knock your socks off.” They were originally called the Missouri Rockets. After the impresario Roxy brought them to New York for his Roxy Theatre, they were called the Roxyettes. Only later would they become the Rockettes, after Roxy and Radio City Music Hall parted ways. 

The Radio City Rockettes have long been represented by the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). In 1967, they won a month-long strike for better working conditions, which was led by AGVA salaried officer Penny Singleton. In August 2002, contract negotiations for the troupe’s veteran members resulted in a buyout by the owners of Radio City Music Hall. Roughly a fourth of the veteran Rockettes were offered retirement options, while the remaining dancers were offered the opportunity to re-audition.

The height requirement in the earlier years was between 5 ft 2 in (1.6 m) and 5 ft 6.5 in (1.7 m), but was between 5 ft 6 in (1.7 m) and 5 ft 10.5 in (1.8 m) until 2022 in stocking feet to give off the illusion of each girl being the same height. In 2022, the Rockettes lowered the minimum height to 5 ft 5 in (1.7 m).[7] Rockettes must be proficient in tap, modern, jazz and ballet. The size of the original troupe was 16 women; it is currently 36. 

The first non-white Rockette, a Japanese-born woman named Setsuko Maruhashi, was not hired until 1985. The Rockettes did not allow dark-skinned dancers into the dance line until 1987. The justification for this policy was that such women would supposedly distract from the consistent look of the dance group. 

The first African American Rockette was Jennifer Jones; selected in 1987, she made her debut in 1988 at the Super Bowl XXII halftime show. The first person with a visible disability hired by the Rockettes (Sydney Mesher, missing a left hand due to symbrachydactyly) was hired in 2019.