For the first time, the legendary high-kicking Rockettes will perform at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in November.
Two Rockettes held court at a Wednesday evening reception at the Cobb Energy Centre to kick off the first day of ticket sales.
Retired developer Johnny Gresham of east Cobb, who turned out for the event with his wife, Lynda Gresham, said he’s been a fan for decades.
“When this country boy went to New York that is the first thing I wanted to see is the Rockettes, and my eyes were big and brown,” Gresham said. “It was awesome.”
Michael Taormina, managing director of the Cobb Energy Centre, said this will be the largest show the theater has played host to in its almost six-year history.
“Twenty-three performances,” Taormina said. “These mega shows have major ripple effects. Eating in restaurants. Even down to baby sitters and gas and buying tickets and taxes, you know, all that stuff; it’s major. This is like a Super Bowl for the performing arts. We’ll draw from other states.”
Margaret McPherson, 32, a member of the Marist School of Atlanta’s Class of 1999, is in her ninth year as a Rockette.
“To be a Rockette, you have to be proficient in jazz, tap and ballet,” McPherson said. “The audition process is pretty rigorous in New York City at Radio City Music Hall — about 300, 400 women will line up to go into the audition, and they take us in groups of 50, and they’ll show us a quick little jazz piece, and then they cut the numbers down, and then we do another jazz technique piece, and cut it down, and then there’s tap, and then there’s kicking. So there’s several rounds, and if you make it to the end of the first day, you get to come back the next day and continue to learn some choreography.”
Rockettes must be 18 years of age and have a height of between 5 feet, 6 six inches to 5 feet, 10.5 inches. The tallest performers are placed in the center and the shortest on the ends to give the illusion that they are all the same height, said Rockette Joanna Richardson, 27, a native of Stone Mountain and member of Duluth High School’s Class of 2004.
With 300 “eye-high” kicks per show and four shows a day, the Rockettes are athletes.
“That is 1,200 kicks in one day,” Taormina said with awe.
Richardson said the Rockettes have a saying, that, “Once you’re a Rockette, you’re always a Rockette. There’s such a sense of camaraderie with the Rockettes because it takes everybody working hard and doing the exact choreography the same way at the same time that you know you’re out there with just extraordinary and talented strong women, so we’re all there supporting each other, and we’re rooting for each other.”
Michele Swann, CEO of the Cobb Galleria Centre, who attended the reception, said she’s loved the Rockettes ever since she was a little girl taking tap dance lessons in Niagara Falls.
“I think it was the costumes, it was the sets, because they always had such colorful sets and wonderful music, and they have so much precision in everything that they do because it’s practice, practice, practice,” Swann said. “They’re so happy. They make you happy. They make you smile. They’re having fun. It’s not just, ‘OK, I’m dancing,’ but they are loving the experience of dancing, and I think they are audience pleasers. If you’ve seen them ever perform you will smile.”
As for the “eye-high” kicks, Swann said she may have tried one or two of them in the past.
“I’m sure once upon a time I probably did, but not recently,” Swann said.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring the Rockettes, will perform at the Cobb Energy Centre Nov. 7 to 23. This year’s production will feature a 50-foot LED screen that will transport the audience to Times Square and Santa’s Workshop with Santa and the Rockettes. Traditional fan-favorites like the “Living Nativity” and the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” — which have been in the show since 1933 — remain a part of the show’s core.
“If you’ve seen them before it’s still something you return to. It’s as American as apple pie,” Taormina said.