Radio City Rockettes 85th Anniversary

The Radio City Rockettes are celebrating their 85th Anniversary this year and I was a member of this iconic group when they celebrated their 75th Anniversary. I still get a rush of emotional memories when I think of that opening night because I realized what a special role we played in thousands of families holiday traditions.

As you know, NYC is the city that never sleeps which means the Rockettes perform on all holidays – Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and even Veteren’s Day. My first year at Radio City I was a little bummed with the thought of spending the holidays in NYC alone; riding the dingy subway back to a tiny non-decorated apartment and miss out on my mom’s yummy cooking and cozy house. But I couldn’t exactly complain, I mean this WAS my dream job and an honor others only dreamt about. Plus the Rockettes had been entertaining families on Christmas Day since 1932.

We had long days and a grueling schedule but somehow we found laughter, comradery and created our own holiday traditions backstage. As it turns out, I wasn’t celebrating alone, I had 36 sisters plus an extended family of dressers, stage managers, ensemble, stage hands and of course Santa! We bonded and formed friendships through quick changes, dressing room parties and the buddy system. Here are a few lessons I learned while spending the holidays with my NYC family.

The “Vader Captain” – In Rockette language that means the Elevator Captian. My dear friend Temple self appointed herself this title, to all of our gratitude, so that no one was left behind for our soldier cue. If you missed the “vader” you were left to scamper down 4 flights of stairs in slippery tap shoes and tight starched toy soldier overalls that kept your body from bending waist down. “Does everyone have their ‘vader buddy’?” Temple would ask. When all had confirmed, she’d wink at the elevator operator and down to the stage we would go. When running late one day for our cue, a sister Rockette blurted out, “everyones here let’s go.” The elevator operator looked up but didn’t budge, after a long pause he said, “You’re not the Vader Captain”…

Moral of the story: No matter how stressed and rushed you feel around the holidays, respect your family.


The “Quick Change” - Along with a talented crew of dressers, The Rockettes helped each other zip, snap, strap, tie, step, shimmy and transform each other from Ragdoll to Reindeer in as little as 60 seconds. We would bark orders at each other to “move your hair,” “look down,” “suck in,” or we would miss the fence cue. It was a choreographed assembly line we had down to the second. But occasionally on a 6 show day, fatigue would set in and you would fumble your dexterity disrupting the synergy. A sister Rockette would see the struggle, jump in to help, and complete the transformation just in the nick of time to load the fence…

Moral of the story: No matter how fast life gets during the holidays, never leave your family behind.

“Smorgasbord Christmas Dinner” – We celebrated Christmas Day in Little Rox (my dressing room) by bringing a smorgasbord of our favorite holiday food and treats in to share. I wanted all my new friends to experience my mom’s famous homemade candy and treats, which she kindly overnighted to me. In between shows we stuffed ourselves with a medley of home cooked dishes from different states and Pam’s dessert platter was a hit. But with plenty of leftovers I decided to make little goodie bags for some of the stage crew who worked hard at keeping us safe and the show running smoothly. I was so excited to let these guys try some real southern treats. I went to my buddy Vinny and handed him some chocolate covered peanut butter balls wrapped in saran wrap and said “Merry Christmas Vinny!” He looked at the treats, looked at me, back down at the treats again, and said in his thickest Jersey accent, “Are those camel turds?”

Moral of the story: Even if your family does not acknowledge your hard work, forgive and share with them…

This is my NYC family and I am proud we could bring joy to others through entertainment while making friendships that will last a lifetime. I am looking forward to creating more special memories and traditions with my new Dancers Shape family.Here’s to family and holiday traditions, no matter how salty they are!



About the Author:

Jennifer McCamish is owner and Director of Programming and Training at Dancers Shape. Jennifer has over 30 years of dance experience with training from legendary institutes in New York City, London, Los Angeles and New Orleans. She received a B.A. in Dance from the University of Texas at Austin (Dean’s List) and was a professional dancer in New York City for thirteen years. She danced at Radio City Music Hall as a Radio City Rockette performing in numerous productions of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Fifi Awards and the NYC Christopher Columbus Day Parade. Read more about Jennifer.