Consider it a legacy of legs — and high kicks.
The Radio City Rockettes, stars of the “Christmas Spectacular,” and arguably the world’s most famous precision dance team, have performed on The Great Stage since 1933, ushering in the holiday season each year with their signature eye-high kicks delivered in a chorus line.
The dance moves of the 80-member troupe — whose routines range from jazz, tap and ballet sequences to contemporary styles — highlight not only the physical demands of their rigorous routines but the splendor behind the seams of their signature looks.
Here, we take a look at five of the eight costumes from the famed Christmas show.
PARADE OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS
The most iconic of the Rockette numbers, it's been a fan favorite since it debuted in 1933. "Everyone who has ever been a Rockette has worn this costume," says Jennifer Clavin, 25, of Holtsville, who is in her eighth year as a Rockette. "It is one of the most unique costumes in the show." The costume was designed by Vincente Minnelli, director of classic MGM musicals like "Meet Me in St. Louis," who was one of the show's first set and costume designers and modeled the soldier's look after a porcelain doll. The outfit takes about 12 hours to make and has remained nearly unchanged over the decades. This look does not allow the Rockettes much movement. The white trousers are constructed like a four-sided box without front and back pleats: There's a thin lining of foam that allows them to stand upright independently. (The trousers are sent out for cleaning after every three to six performances). The feathered black hats are nearly 3 feet tall. The Rockettes complete the look with a red dot applied to each cheek using double-stick tape or Vaseline. The Rockettes' quickest outfit change is 78 seconds to take off their gloves, cheeks, jacket, pants and high heels from the wooden soldier costume and switch to the "New York at Christmas" costume.
12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
The dancers spend the most time in this candy-cane motif costume: eight minutes of the 90-minute show. "It represents Christmas. The stripes. The poinsettias," says Tara Dunleavy, 33, of Oceanside, who has been a Rockette for nine seasons. "It's just flattering, too." Aside from the wooden soldier costume, this is also the look that resonates most with guests, she says. "When they see us in this costume, they really respond to us."
NEW YORK AT CHRISTMAS
This glittery dress is a favorite look for Courtney Rottenberger, 30, of Bethpage. "In this number, we have a double-decker bus and we take the audience on a tour of New York," says Rottenberger, a fourth-season Rockette. "Half of us are in red and half of us are in green."
The original "Rag Dolls" routine became part of the show in 1940, and was reworked for the 2014 production, which introduced new costumes. Eleni Gavalas, 22, of Manhasset, prefers the re-imagined look of the rag dolls which includes a dress, headpiece and lensless glasses along with red-striped, candy-cane look-alike leggings. During this scene, the rag dolls come to life with a high-energy tap routine. "Santa takes audiences on a journey through New York City to his toy factory in the North Pole," says Gavalas, who has spent four seasons as a Rockette. The "Rag Dolls" number is one of two scenes where the Rockettes brighten their cheeks with red dots.
Made of digitally printed spandex and netting, the costume is the most glittery of the looks from the show. It varies between six styles and colors, each embellished with about 400 Swarovski crystals. The "Snow" costume was designed by Gregg Barnes and introduced in 2013. Just like real-life snowflakes, no two costumes are alike. The women accessorize with armbands and bracelets made of the same fabric as the costume. During the "Snow" scene, nine giant GPS-steered snowflakes fly overhead in the sprawling theater space for a glistening end to the 90-minute show. "I love the concept of this costume," says Sierra Ring, 33, of Manhattan, a Rockette for 11 seasons. "Just the way each snowflake is different, and when we all come together it is just magical and unified."