As Dove quickly found, a big part of sticking to such a high-intensity performance schedule is practicing a consistent warm-up before shows, including planks, arm exercises and, of course, plenty of hamstring preparation to get those legs going. In fact, dancers have their own signature movement to fire up the hamstrings, which they call “bottoms up,” which means squatting with hands pressed together in front of the chest and then straightening the legs into a forward crease, repeating several times.
After Dove had a chance to do these warm-ups and more alongside six Rockettes, it was time to learn how the Rockettes train for their famous kicks, starting with the lineup position. And this is where it gets interesting: Despite what you might think, the Rockettes don’t hold each other’s backs for support — or actually touch or lean against them at all. That’s right, they levitate their arms one behind the other in a shape Rockette calls Sarah Groom’s Hoge “Arc and Slice.” “Your right arm curves outward and around, and your left hand cuts straight up to be next to you in the lower-middle part of the back,” she explains.
This means that the Rockettes not only slap their legs sky high in time to the music, but also hold their arms up, with their hands just as tucked behind the people on either side of them. After only taking eight kicks herself in that position, did Dove agree? “Very difficult.” (And remember, the Rockettes do hundreds of such kicks per show.)
“Once the orchestra begins at the head of the show, you’re good to go [for 90 minutes straight]-You have to be.” — Sarah Grooms Hoge, Radio City Rockette
To avoid overworking and straining their muscles, the Rockettes also practice regular cool-downs, using an on-site gym to stretch after shows and dip their feet, legs or full body in ice tubs (with 30-degree water filled) to dive. In the same room there’s a gym’s worth of weight-training equipment, which the dancers often tap on before the show to “just get everything going,” says Hoge, “because from the time the orchestra starts at the beginning of the show, ready to go again [for 90 minutes straight]-you have to be.” As you would quickly discover upon visiting, the show has no break and involves the Rockettes in almost every scene.
To learn more about how the Radio City Rockettes train to keep going all season long and how they prepare for each show (they do their hair and makeup!), take a look at Dove’s journey backstage by pressing play video above.