To say the Rockettes are like family may sound clichéd, but for two high-kicking Long Islanders, it really feels that way.
Eleni Gavalas, of Manhasset, and Tara Dunleavy Tubridy, a Queens native now living in Oceanside, first met in 2010 at Nadia’s Performing Arts Centre, a Queens dance school. Gavalas, now 23, was a student; Tubridy, 33, an instructor.
“Talk about worlds colliding,” says Tubridy, a Hofstra University graduate who has danced with the Rockettes for 10 years. “I was so proud of Eleni when she became a Rockette [four seasons ago], and to be dancing alongside her . . . it’s just awesome.”
Gavalas, Tubridy and 40 other women who make up that iconic kick-line are the focus of the “New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes,” an all-new show opening at Radio City Music Hall on June 23 and running through Aug. 7.
Radio City, home of the iconic Christmas show, debuted a “Spring Spectacular” last year, starring “Dancing With the Stars” heartthrob Derek Hough and Tony Award winner Laura Benanti. This year, the Rockettes are headlining, in a revved-up production directed and choreographed by Mia Michaels, known for Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”
“Mia’s pushed us to a completely different level,” says Gavalas.
Tubridy agrees. “It’s exciting to show our fans contemporary dance styles — besides, you know, the high kicks.”
The new “New York Spectacular” tells the story of two kids — Jenna Ortega (of Disney Channel’s “Stuck in the Middle”) and Lilla Crawford (star of the recent Broadway revival of “Annie” and Little Red Riding Hood in the film adaptation of “Into the Woods”) — who get separated from their parents on a trip to New York. Luckily, Rockettes pop up everywhere, guiding the kids on a tour through the city (Empire State Building, Wall Street, Central Park) to reunite them with their family.
“My favorite number is ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ” says Gavalas. “It downpours — a full-on rainstorm. We’re in these awesome yellow rain jackets, we’re tapping. It’s unbelievable.”
Then, in a flash, they whip off the rain slickers and are into their next costumes. “We have eight quick changes in this show,” says Tubridy. “The fastest one is just 20 or 30 seconds. We like to say we’re as choreographed offstage as we are onstage.”
Of course, it’s their onstage precision that has made the Rockettes a New York institution.
“To have 6,000 people applauding while you’re doing a kick-line — it makes all the hard work worth it,” says Gavalas.
“We’re strong women, we’re friends, we’re brand ambassadors,” says Tubridy. “I’m just so proud to be a part of it.”