Uniondale’s Breana Marshall, 24, made her official debut as a Rockette in the "Christmas Spectacular" when the curtains of Radio City Music Hall opened on the evening of Nov. 17. From the stage, she could see a full crowd that included 40 members of her friends and family beaming with pride.
“After the show, I kind of felt like a celebrity,” Marshall says. “So many little kids and couples from all over the world were walking up to me saying that they loved the show. It was really an unforgettable experience.”
Marshall is one of the newest members of the Radio City kickline and dance team, which originated in 1925 and has been performing the world-famous Christmas show in Manhattan since 1933.
Marshall grew up taking dance lessons at Broadway Bound Dance Center in Garden City. She then studied dance at LaGuardia High School in Queens, was signed to Clear Talent Group, and majored in commercial dance at Pace University.
“ 'Fame' was filmed at LaGauardia High School and I remember telling my mom, ‘I really want to go there,’ ” Marshall says. “Growing up on Long Island, so close to New York City, I saw what opportunities were available, so I just kept believing in myself, and here I am.”
Last year, Marshall participated in the Rockettes' Conservatory program and auditioned for the Rockettes for the first time. Earlier this year, Marshall trained with the conservatory again and auditioned once more — this time, with the goal accomplished of making it onstage for the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall.
When she got the exciting news, she was stretching in her room at home in Uniondale, where she lives with her mother and grandmother.
“I immediately started crying,” she says. “It was something I worked so long and hard for, so it was surreal to hear those words. I went downstairs with my mom and grandma with a bottle of champagne, and they started crying, too, and just jumping up and down.”
Marshall is now one of 84 Rockettes — two casts of 36, each with six swings — who perform precise dance routines as part of the Christmas Spectacular, including the world-famous kickline. Some dances, such as “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” have been performed since the first Radio City Christmas show.
“Especially as a person of color on the line, I get to inspire young girls that look like me and have the same dream as I did,” Marshall says. “I think that’s the best part of all of this — I get to inspire girls who don't think they are capable of achieving it.”
According to Julie Branam, the director and choreographer of the Christmas Spectacular, the Rockettes organization is “committed to ensuring that the dancers from all backgrounds seem themselves represented on the line.”
“To that end, the dance company actively works to open education, training, and development opportunities to more dancers through the no-fee Rockettes Conservatory,” Branam says. “The program provides invited dancers with a well-rounded curriculum that emphasizes Rockettes precision choreography supported by a strong technical foundation, as well as strength and stamina training.”
Every April, the Rockettes hold an open call to audition for the conservatory and a chance to join the kickline. This year, there were more than 1,000 dancers from around the world at open call, and Marshall is one of 14 new dancers to make the team.
The Rockettes practice six hours a day, six days a week for six weeks leading up to the magical holiday show. Though many of the numbers are classics, there are also newer or re-imagined ones as well, as such as this year’s “Dance of the Frost Fairies.”
But Marshall’s favorite to perform is “New York at Christmas” — “NYAC” for short. In it, she and her fellow Rockettes sit atop a large, red prop New York City Big Bus, where they have a prime view of the 6,000-capacity venue full of joyous onlookers absorbing the show and getting in the Christmas spirit.
“It’s the one where I feel most like a Rockette,” she says. “Getting up on that bus is really exciting, and I get to see how many people are there. It’s a staple of the show, and I’m so honored to perform it.”
'Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes'
WHEN | WHERE Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Ave., New York. Shows at 11 a.m., 2, 5 and 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m., 1, 4, 7 and 10 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The show's run has been extended to Jan. 4 due to demand. Added shows take place 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 2-4.
COST Starting at $49 at the box office; $65 online
MORE INFO rockettes.com