Auditions are held for the Rockettes dancers for the upcoming Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Rockettes audition in Atlanta aims to boost diversity

Samantha Berger had mixed feelings the first time she auditioned for the Rockettes.

An African American, Berger had seen them on television and, “to be frank,” she said, “the Rockettes didn’t look like me.”

Now a part of the dancing group going on 14 seasons, Berger said she’s proud of “the leaps and bounds made … in terms of diversity since then.”

Samantha Berge of the Radio City Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
Photo: For the AJC

The New York-based dance company — known by many for their Christmas shows — seeks to continue making advances in the way of adding cultural diversity to the lineup of 80 women. Upcoming auditions in Atlanta this week are a big part of this effort.

Seeking to make strides to increase representation of future dancers, the group is hosting an open call for auditions May 9 in Atlanta – a city that Karen Keeler, creative director for the Rockettes, said could help them continue to culturally diversify the lineup.

“We chose Atlanta as one of the spots (to hold auditions) because we feel it has a really great dance community as well as a great, diverse community,” Keeler said. “Atlanta is also a place where people across the world can easily get to … we’re excited to see the Atlanta talent and see these dancers from diverse backgrounds. We’re really encouraging that, and it’s definitely a priority for us.”

A 2018 dress rehearsal for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Photo: For the AJC

It’s been a while since the Rockettes have held auditions here – 20 years in fact. The most recent auditions in New York, Keeler said, brought out more than 400 women hoping to be selected for a part.

For those who decide to come out Thursday and give it a try, Keeler offers the following advice: “Auditions are hard, first of all. It’s a vulnerable place to put yourself out there, especially if dancing is something you love. But, the more you are just being yourself in the audition and trying not be something you’re not – the more sincerity will come through.”

“I would encourage everyone to trust who they are as a dancer and show me that side of them,” Keeler added.

A foundation in ballet, tap and jazz is essential, she noted. Also, on the technical side, all dancers must be between 5-feet-6 and 5-feet-10 inches tall (measurements will be taken in stocking feet).

She said dancers who are able to “assimilate the material precisely … but also have a sense of individuality and style” are likely to get good marks during auditions.

The Radio City Rockettes kick off rehearsals at St. Paul the Apostle Church for the 2017 production of the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes. Photo by Marion Curtis / StarPix
Photo: For the AJC

The Rockettes have been performing since 1925 (known originally as the Missouri Rockettes). Initially founded with just 16 women, the group has grown over nearly a century to include a full line of 80, with appearances at Radio City Music Hall in hundreds of stage spectaculars as well as traveling abroad to entertain troops with the United Service Organizations (USO).

Berger consider it an honor to be part of the group’s legacy. She said the Rockettes are “a sisterhood involving lots of work, but with great rewards … every (season) is equally exciting.”

For those in Atlanta to whom this appeals, Keeler said “come and see me. Come and dance with me. I tell dancers that it’s an experience more so than an audition, and whatever comes from it you can learn something.”

Added Keeler: “Whether or not you think it’s a perfect match, I welcome all dancers to come out and try. This is the first time we’ve been in Atlanta in 20 years, and I’m super excited to see the talent and diversity there.”

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