New York: The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

By: Maxine Sheppard

December 10, 2011


Every year since 1933, New York’s Radio City Music Hall has presented its annual Christmas Spectacular; a musical stage show and Christmas tradition starring the Radio City Rockettes. Featuring extravagant sets and many costume changes – more than 1,300 outfits appear on stage in the 90 minute show – the all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza is seen by more than a million people each year.


Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall by Radoslaw Drewek on

Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall by Radoslaw Drewek on


An essential New York family Christmas experience, this year’s show – The Rockette’s Magical Journey – runs until the new year and includes old favourite scenes The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and The Living Nativity which have appeared since the inaugural year, along with new special effects and musical numbers and a new 3DLIVE scene. The show’s story this year centres around the Rockettes’ mission through the Northern Forest to find the castle of the ‘Humbug King’ who has stolen all the toys from Santa Claus’ workshop.


Radio City Rockettes by Radoslaw Drewek on

The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers by Radoslaw Drewek on


Inspired by the girls of the 1922 Ziegfield Follies, the Radio City Rockettes are probably the most famous precision dance company in the world, and perform five shows a day, seven days a week during the Christmas Spectacular’s run, with every performance culminating in an eye-high leg kick routine in perfect unison. So what does it take to become a Rockette?


A pyramid of Rockettes © Clint Currier on

A pyramid of Rockettes © Clint Currier on


Every year, thousands of hopefuls across the country audition to become a part of this glamorous lineup. In order to be considered, they’ll need to prove their proficiency in ballet, tap, jazz and, of course, those famous leg kicks.

The Rockettes are best known for the uniformity and exactness of their routines, so a height requirement is an important factor in the formation of the routines. Each Rockette must be no shorter than 5’6″ and no taller than 5’10½”, and while this might seem like a rather large difference, if the tallest dancer is positioned in the middle of the line, which gradually decreases to the shortest either side, it creates an illusion of uniform height.


Rockettes dressed as reindeer © Stacey Huggins on

Rockettes dressed as reindeer © Stacey Huggins on


Fancy yourself as a 2012 Rockette? Auditions are held every summer in New York and Los Angeles, but before you submit yourself to a potential humiliation of epic proportions, consider a Rockettes Dance Class. For $79 per person, you could participate in a one-hour dance class led by a Radio City Rockette right in the rehearsal studio of Radio City where you’ll learn one of the new routines from the Christmas Spectacular before seeing the show.

For intermediate or advanced dancers, the next option up (for $199) is the Rockettes Experience, a 3 hour dance masterclass workshop taught by a Rockette, featuring the kickline choreography and a “mock audition”, along with a Q&A session and photo opportunity. You’ll also get a Stage Door Tour before the show starts.


Elaborate sets of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular © Clint Currier on

Elaborate sets of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular © Clint Currier on


Radio City Christmas Spectacular runs until Jan 2nd, 2012.Individual ticket prices range from $45 to $250.

Virgin Atlantic operates five daily flights to New York – for more information and the best fares, visit the New York pages of our website.

Photos: Header shot © Sergey Rogovets |, Rockettes in bus © Radoslaw Drewek |, and thanks to Stacey Huggins, and Clint Currier on


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

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