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The Rockettes high-kicking in Seattle
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The Rockettes high-kicking in Seattle

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Radio City
Christmas Spectacular
Paramount Theater
Through January 3


The very name "Radio City Rockettes" summons images of a row of in-synch, toe-tapping, high-kicking, beautiful women. Their association with Christmas is almost as prevalent as Santa Claus himself. As the Rockettes get ready to celebrate their 76th year, their Christmas Spectacular promises to be delightful and entertaining to all. In preparation, the Seattle Gay News caught up with two-year Rockette member, Talese Peterson Hunt.

Eric Andrews-Katz: How long does the average dancer stay with the Rockettes?

Talese Peterson Hunt: That's hard to say as it's different for everybody. There are some women who have been here for 10-15 years, and others who will only stay a year or so before moving on. It's different because of our diverse backgrounds, and we're all on our own paths. I'd like to stay as long as I can.

Andrews-Katz: What is the average age and age range of a Rockette?

Hunt: That also varies a lot. You have to be at least 18 years old, and as far as a maximum, well, a lady never likes to reveal her age, but anyone can do it as long as her body holds up.

Andrews-Katz: Where do you stand in the 5'5" to 5'10" height restriction rule?

Hunt: I'm 5'9.5". In Seattle, I'll be one of the center girls. The tallest women are in the center and it cascades out so that it gives the illusion of us all being the same height.

Andrews-Katz: Is the signature high kick part of the audition process, or is it taught?

Hunt: We have to do kicks at the audition as well as being proficient in jazz and tap combinations. The auditions are a two-day process and then a series of cuts to make sure the technique can be handled. The last thing taught is the high kick, and we are required to kick toe-to-eye. This also helps add to the illusion of line precision.

Andrews-Katz: In modern controversy, the Rockettes have been accused of perpetrating a stereotype much like the Barbie doll. How do you respond to that?

Hunt: As part of our job, we have to stay physically fit. We are into an elite athleticism and need to maintain it more so than the average person. We have to do strength training and cardiovascular exercises. As a Rockette, I'm proud of being part of a tradition that's been a national treasure for over 75 years. These women are all from different backgrounds and all are classy and smart. I feel that people who think we "perpetrate a stereotype" are maybe missing what the Rockettes represent.

Andrews-Katz: Has anyone ever tripped and brought down the line?

Hunt: Not that I heard of, but it is a live show and you never know what's going to happen. At a recent show, someone lost a shoe during the kick line, and since we do use live animals during the nativity scene, it just becomes one of the joys of live theater.

Andrews-Katz: The Rockettes do a lot of civic services. What events do you have planned for Seattle?

Hunt: We are involved with a benefit for Toys for Tots and I know we're working with the Salvation Army in Seattle.

Andrews-Katz: What is your favorite part of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular?

Hunt: I really love the "Christmas in NY" number, with the traditional red outfits. It's kind of the iconic Rockette number, with more high kicks than any other in the show. It's also the most tiring, but I love it because it shows what the Rockettes represent.

The Rockettes performed at the grand opening night at Radio City on December 27, 1932. Originally founded by Russell Market, they were brought to NYC by S.L. "Roxy" Rothafel who called them his "Roxyettes." What started as a 16-woman kick line quickly grew into an instant sensation, becoming the current 36-member Rockettes. Since 1932, more than 3,000 women have high kicked among the ranks of the world-famous troupe. The Rockettes were featured at the 2001 presidential inauguration, and are a yearly staple at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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