Four Rockettes explored the Beehive last week to hype the Radio City Christmas Spectacular on Nov. 26-29 at the Maverick Center. The ladies visited the Gateway, Temple Square, Rio Tinto Stadium-s soccer field and even made it to the top of the PC Mountain Resort's ski lift (in full costume).
Luckily, the elite dancers, including SLC's Talese Hunt, also penciled in an interview with SLmag to chat about their trip to Utah, the show, life on the road and as Radio City Rockettes.
Lindsay Howe Hometown: Sacramento, CA Favorite Rockette Dance: Let Christmas Shine - Jazz and precision dance number with new diamond-covered costumes and an intro by Tony Bennett. "Our costumes are amazing; there's a million crystals on all of them. It looks like we're dripping in diamonds."
Karilyn Surratt Hometown: Grew up in Saint Louis, MO and born in Oklahoma Favorite Rockette Dance: Let Christmas Shine and The Twelve Days of Christmas - Seven minutes of high energy tap dancing to the beat of the classic Christmas carol. "When we do seven swans swimming, it's kind of a spoof on the four little swans from Swan Lake."
Summer Renner Hometown: Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. Favorite Rockette Dance: Magic is There - A trip to Santa's workshop where life-size ragdolls come alive. "It's not your typical Rockette number. We get to be silly for once, bust still precise and together."
Talese Hunt Hometown: Grew up in Sandy, now lives in Lehi Favorite Rockette Dance: The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers - Perfect example of the Rockette's precision, ending with the wooden soldiers falling like dominoes. All of the costumes in the dance are originals, created for the dance 78 years ago. "People recognize the music and love those costumes, and it always leaves an impression."
Talese, what was it like to meet all the hometown fans at the Gateway (click here for the story)?
TH: "I have to be honest, it did make my heart really warm, but I was like 'Is anybody going to show up? If they don't, I'll be so embarrassed.' It was so fun to see people who drove a few hours to get there early, because they wanted to get the vouchers for the free tickets. I've been hoping to come to Salt Lake since I've been a Rockette (she's in her fourth year), because it's the perfect show for Salt Lake City."
Why do you say it's perfect for Salt Lake?
TH: "It's a family show. Family is so important to our community and state, and that's really the biggest thing. It's a Christmas show and we have a large Christian population, so people will really appreciate the living nativity at the end of the show. And we have such strong support for the arts here, a really talented dance community and so many talented people."
One fan I interviewed at the Gateway got there at 6 a.m., but you weren't even coming until noon. What's it like to have fans so excited about you?
LH: "Yeah, we actually met her. They're the ones who keep us going and keep us alive. The Christmas Spectacular has been going on for 78 years, and if it were not for fans like her, we wouldn't still be here spreading the cheer. We love our fans, and it's always really exciting to speak with them. We actually ran into another Rockette from the 80s yesterday, too. Once a Rockette, always a Rockette."
TH: "It also speaks to the fact that it's just such a timeless show. It lasted through the years because people really love it, and I think that's partly because it's created a tradition for so many. People go see the show, they create good memories with loved ones, and that sticks with them."
The show has always stayed the same then?
KS: 'It's not the exact same show from 78 years ago. There are so many pieces that evolved, and most of the things you'll see in November are brand new, straight from the Radio City stage. It's the biggest Spectacular event Radio City has produced yet. It's got a large LED screen; it's really huge, phenomenal. But some things like the Wooden Soldiers and the Living Nativity were in the show in 1933, so we still have some of the classic numbers in there."
TH: "Some of our newer numbers have the most challenging choreography that's come out. It has the current trends of dance, and it really is a precise technique. You have to be strong in your overall technique, ballet, jazz and tap."
I saw some previews of you dressed up like reindeer. What part of the show is that?
LH: 'It's how we start the show. Our director always tells us we've been in the barn for 364 days and can't wait to get out and take Santa's sleigh. It's definitely more of a jazz number, and we're definitely sassy reindeer. We hook up Santa's sleigh, and our antlers light up at the end as we take him off in the sky."
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A ROCKETTE
On a four-show day, the ladies grab breakfast early and take time to get centered before they head to the theater. They were up late the night before and need to work out their tight muscles. After a warm up and hitting the stage, the dancers ice their feet between shows.
They are also responsible for their own hair and makeup and get continual feedback on how they can improve their dancing, with a little positive reinforcement mixed in. "Sometimes, we'll also play games to see who had the highest jump split or something like that. The corrective notes are just to make sure we're upholding the precision technique we're famous for," says Lindsay Howe.
The day usually ends with an ice bath to keep inflammation down from the dancers' 1,000 plus eye-high kicks earlier on stage. "We have a great athletic training staff, and in every city they provide the ice baths, taping and ultrasound if we need it - everything you can imagine," says Talese Hunt.
When they have free time, which is almost never, the dancers hang out in their athletic training room. "Last year, I had a minor shoulder injury," says Karilyn Surratt. "When it was heeled, I still ate my meals in the training room or just stretched to hang out and talk."
So, for you guys who are just visiting Utah, what do you think?
KS: "We're only here for such a short amount of time, but there's so many things to see. Everybody's so nice. It's beautiful. The skyline, the scenery, the buildings. It's gorgeous."
LH: "And the people are so friendly and welcomed us with open arms and really embraced us and our show."
Is it all work or have you been able to really experience Utah?
LH: "Yesterday, we got to go to a lot of landmarks here in Salt Lake and take pictures. We went to Temple Square, and we also went to Park City to ride a big, huge lift. I've never been on a lift before, so it was like 'Whoa, guys!' And we had dinner in downtown Park City at Zoom. We were also at the soccer stadium. We wish we could stay longer to visit more places and see more landmarks."
When you tour do you usually bus or fly?
LH: "You'll see a few buses coming around. There's also about 32 trucks which will house our sets, costumes, cast, crew, athletic training staff - everybody and everything that comes with the show."
"Any tales for the road you can share?"
LH: "Every trail has its road blocks. Coming here this week, we had some trouble getting our costumes on time. There are so many people, over 100 cast and crew, getting this show together, so think of all the things that could go wrong. We work really hard to make it a perfect show, but once in a while you might get lucky and see a crazy fluke. There have been shoes kicked into the audience, and on our first year of the arena tour one of the curtains caught fire."
Whoa! What did you do?
LH: "They had to cancel the show, but that's the reality of live entertainment."
"What's it like on the Rockettes' tour bus?
LH: "We play games; we do mad libs. All of a sudden a girl will pop out of her seat and yell 'Anybody up for mad libs?' But when we get to a city, I like to hit the ground running and experience as much of the city as possible in the little time I have, because sometimes we're only there for as little as 24 hours."
Talese, are you excited to perform in Utah as a Rockette?
TH: "Actually, right now I'm in the Boston and Providence cast, so I won't be performing here. I'm just thrilled the show is coming here, and I hope everybody will get out and support the show."
LH: "Salt Lake is definitely a highlight for me. We're also going to San Diego, and I'm super stoked. The majority of my family lives there."
Any words of inspiration for girls looking to follow your footsteps?
SR: "Never stop trying and never stop auditioning, because there are girls who have auditioned five or six times and after that they get a call. Just keep following your heart and your dreams. Never give up, because it could always happen."
TH: "Do what you love and have fun. We're all so happy to be doing this, and we have a ton of fun with it."
Lastly, could you teach me the eye-high kick?
I think I got it!