As one of the Radio City Rockettes since September 2007, Christina Cichra is currently performing in the newest edition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, America’s biggest Yuletide celebration.
Now in its 85th year, the show brings together its own traditions of holiday seasons past, from wooden soldiers to 3D video games to the spectacular Living Nativity finale with actual camels. (Not to mention a singing and dancing Santa!)
In this exclusive interview, Cichra talks about the history of the Rockettes with the show, the difficulties in quick costume changes, and her favorite part of this year’s pageant.
What’s new about this edition of the show?
This year is the 85th anniversary of the Rockettes performing in New York City. To celebrate, there is a costume retrospective in the show that commemorates costumes worn since the 1930s.
Where did you grow up and how did you get into theater?
I grew up in Alachua, Florida. I have been dancing since I was three, and the main reason I became a dancer is because my older sister was a dancer and I wanted to be just like her.
When did you first see the RCMH show, and how do you feel about it now that you’re a part of it?
The first time I saw the Rockettes perform was during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s a great honor performing dances like the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” a number that has been in the show since 1933.
Exactly how many Rockettes have there been to date? What’s the most important thing to become one?
There have been more than 3,000 Rockettes since their inception. Currently, there are more than 120 Rockettes. In the New York show there are 40 Rockettes per cast (36 are on stage at one time plus four swings) and there are two casts. In each of the two touring casts, there are 20 Rockettes (18 women on stage plus two swings). The most important thing? Hard work and dedication.
What’s the most difficult part of the show? The most fun?
Quick changes. For instance, we only have 78 seconds between Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and New York at Christmas for a complete costume change! We change not only our clothes, but earrings, hats, gloves, and shoes. But the most fun I have is in “Let Christmas Shine.” Our costumes are covered in thousands of Swarovski crystals—when the curtain goes up we literally shine!
What was the audition process like?
It lasted two days. We learned dance combinations that were performed in front of the director and her staff, and throughout the two days, cuts were made. Those of us left at the end of the second day had to wait two months until we knew we had the job.
The show is pretty much synonymous with Christmas. What images come to mind when you think of the show?
While it’s about Christmas, the show represents 36 women working together and dancing in complete unison. It’s amazing what you can accomplish through teamwork!
How about this year’s centerpiece/showstopper? This year’s edition features 3D effects and a virtual video game.
Every dance is a show stopper! The show features numbers that have been performed since 1933, like “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “Living Nativity,” as well as modern additions like the most recent, a 3D video game in which the Rockettes play heroines who help Santa win his toys back from the Humbugs by spreading Christmas cheer.
Who’s playing Santa, and how is he chosen?
Santa is played by Santa, of course!
How long do the rehearsals typically last? Are they done in the summer or early fall?
Rehearsals for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular generally begin at the end of September, and we rehearse six hours a day, six days a week until the show opens.
Which sequence do the children typically go wild for? The parents?
I think the favorite of the show is the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.” It’s a classic and also the epitome of precision work, which the Rockettes are known for! Children and adults alike are fascinated, especially by the fall at the end!
Something about the show that totally goes over the audience’s head is…
Probably the costume changes. To the audience it seems like magic, but for us it’s a lot of work.
Finally, what can you tell us about the camels in the Nativity scene?
The “Living Nativity” is also a tradition that has been a part of the show since 1933. The camels are an integral part of that tradition! There are always multiple handlers around to make sure they are very well loved and taken care of.
The 2012 Radio City Christmas Spectacular runs through Sunday, Dec. 30 at Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas, in New York City. For more information, visit www.radiocitychristmas.com.
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