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By Melissa Romanetz

For more than three quarters of a century, the Radio City Rockettes, the world's most famous precision dance troupe, have been a legendary force in entertainment with a rich history of skill and dedication to their craft. From their memorable USO Tours during WWII, to show-stopping Super Bowl Halftime appearances, to the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade performances, to the 2001 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, the Rockettes have become a national treasure. Their annual starring role in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, and in numerous other cities across the United States, is seen by more people in one year than most other live shows in America – more than two million people annually. In 2009, the Radio City Rockettes kicked up their heels in thirty-six cities across America.

The group first kicked to life in 1925 as the "Missouri Rockets," and made their show business debut in St. Louis, the realization of a long-time dream of their creator, Russell Markert. "I had seen the John Tiller girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922," Markert once reminisced. "If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks … they'd knock your socks off!"

At Radio City's opening night on December 27, 1932, they did just that. The Rockettes, discovered and brought to New York by consummate showman S.L. (Roxy) Rothafel, who first dubbed them the "Roxyettes," shared the stage with 17 diverse acts, among them the Flying Wallendas, Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. The Rockettes were an instant sensation! Markert had created the quintessential American chorus line – an exciting precision dance troupe with great style and glamour. Starting with just 16 women, the numbers grew over the years to what is now a 36-member Rockette kick line.

In 1933, Radio City featured a new movie and a lavish stage production every week starring the Rockettes. Russell Markert's stringent requirements never varied, and he continued to stage and choreograph productions at the Music Hall until his retirement in 1971. The concept of the dance line was to achieve absolute precision. The audience saw 36 Rockettes perform intricate routines, but always moving as "one dancer." Everything – the costumes, the steps and the skill – are kept completely identical. The illusion of uniform height is maintained to this day by putting the tallest dancers in the center, and gradually decreasing the height with the shortest women at either end.

The Rockettes have not only served as ambassadors for Radio City Music Hall, but also for the entire nation. Throughout their history, the dance group has participated in numerous historical events including memorable USO Tours during WWII, show-stopping Super Bowl Halftime appearances where they performed before television audiences of 150 million viewers, and the 2001 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, where the Rockettes performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and on The White House lawn.

The Rockettes have tapped their way through the dreams of thousands of young girls, many who hope to add their own legs to that world-famous kick line one day. The Rockettes appear annually in the nationally televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as well as the NBC Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony, inspiring scores of young dancers nationwide. They have participated in many studio film premieres held at Radio City including "Miracle on 34th Street," Disney's "102 Dalmatians" and "The Lion King" and "Ice Age." The dance troupe has also opened the Tony Awards and Daytime Emmy Awards, broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall and have appeared numerous times on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Late Show With David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. They are even the inspiration for their own Rockette doll.

The Christmas Spectacular has consistently entertained more than two million patrons every year.

The requirements today remain almost exactly as they were at the dance troupe's inception. Since 1932, more than 3,000 women have danced as Rockettes. Each year, in cities across America, hundreds of young women audition to become members of the internationally known troupe. Radio City Rockettes must be between 5'6" and 5'10 ½" and demonstrate proficiency in tap, jazz, ballet and modern dance. But exceptional dance skill alone is not enough to secure a coveted position on the dance line. They must also display a radiant energy that will shine across the footlights to their audience.

The more than 200 women dance troupe embodies the modern-day woman – intelligent, strong, ambitious, multi-talented, beautiful, stylish, hip, fun, witty, fashionable and not to mention, they maintain the most physically fit bodies in the business. The Rockette line is made up of not only dancers, but also businesswomen, fashion designers, students, actresses, volunteer workers and young mothers – all of whom have learned to perfect the art of balancing a dance career with their careers off the stage. Endurance, perseverance and dedication have all contributed to their success in life, and they proudly serve as role models for young women everywhere.

Since 1994, the Rockettes have brought their legendary style of dance to 42 cities outside of New York. In each and every city, the beloved dance troupe has been received with open arms and embraced by the community. In addition to entertaining audiences with their eye-high kicks, the Rockettes enthusiastically give back to the communities in every way possible.

In addition to entertaining from the stage, the Rockettes are active members of the local community through their involvement in charitable and outreach programs while touring the country. Their dedication to helping those less fortunate is tireless. The Rockette's commitment to community involvement extends to every city they visit. In Chicago, the Rockettes hosted a benefit performance for the children of the CoACH Care Center, which provides children with chronic, high-maintenance special healthcare needs a continuum of care beginning at the time of diagnosis. While in Seattle, the Rockettes worked closely with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on several fundraising events including their annual "Gingerbread Village," that helped to raise thousands of dollars for a wonderful cause. The Rockettes promoted children's literacy in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Phoenix, including reading stories to children and running book drives at local libraries and children's hospitals. The Rockettes' involvement with the Ronald McDonald House, a "home-away-from-home," for the families of seriously ill children, brought smiles to hundreds of children in Tampa.

The Rockettes have been great supporters of our nation's troops, paying holiday visits to the Selfridge National Air Guard Base in Detroit and partnering with the Marines in Minneapolis for their annual Toys for Tots toy drive. Most recently in Fort Lauderdale, the Rockettes proved that beauty is not only skin deep with their work for "Facing it Together," a not for profit organization dedicated to providing cosmetic surgery for children and adults with facial differences. As the St. Petersburg Times in Florida observed, "Not only do the Rockettes have great legs, they have wonderful hearts."

It is a family holiday tradition to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. However, not everyone is able to travel to New York City to see the famed show at Radio City Music Hall. So in 1994, Madison Square Garden Entertainment broadened the beloved holiday theatrical's schedule for the first time to encompass markets outside New York, while running simultaneously with the New York show. Since then, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular has performed in top cities across North America including Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, St. Louis, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas, Mexico City, Minneapolis, Seattle, Nashville, Phoenix and many more. In its 15-year history outside of New York, as well as the production at Radio City Music Hall, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular has played to more than 67 million people in 43 different cities.

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