1936-2000: The Radio City Rockettes In Photos
THE Radio City Rockettes is the dance company founded in 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri. Since 1932, the Rockettes have performed out of Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York City.
They were founded by Russell Markert:
* When he saw the Ziegfeld Follies in 1922, he found them short and lacking in choreographic versatility. Yet, he marvelled at their wondrous precision and vowed to one day get 16 taller American girls, who could kick higher and do lots of tap dancing. He got that chance.
After dancing on Broadway, serving as dance director assistant for Earl Carroll’s Vanities (1923) and choreographing an all-female show for the Cotton Club in 1924, Russell formed the Missouri Rockets, a Follies-style group, in St. Louis. This female dance troupe later relocated to New York City and underwent two name change, the American Rockets and new, Rosettes, before permanently moving into the new 6, 200-seat Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center in 1932. Two years later, the troupe forever became known as the Rockettes.
The Radio City Rockettes perform during opening night of the outdoor restaurant at the central sunken plaza at New York City’s Rockefeller Center, June 17, 1936.
* Rockettes had to be 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, with pretty faces and shapely figures who were adept in ballet, tap and soft shoe and able to kick at least 6 inches over their heads.
Radio City Music Hall Rockettes admire plaque, made from wood and metal fragments of a Japanese plane downed by Navy fliers in the South Pacific, in New York on June 20, 1944. Inscription reads: The Fighter Direction Center, South Pacific, have selected as our sponsor and ideal, the Radio City Rockettes, New York.Â Left to right: (top row) Jean MacLeod, Newark, N.Y.; Edna Mae Powers, New Rochelle, N.Y.; Suzanne Graves, Kansas City, Mo.; (bottom row) Mollie Pearson, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Anne Collins, Elkton; and Marian Block, Columbus, Ohio.
The group didn’t feature a black dancer until 1988.
Stretching out for a catnap or rest in New York on March 26, 1946, these Rockettes are among the women performers who use the Music HallÂs backstage dormitory. Equipped with 20 beds, with a nurse in attendance from the hospital staff, it is used mainly for resting between shows. But in rainy weather or on nights preceding early rehearsal, girls may stay all night.
Between shows, some of the Rockettes have lunch in the backstage theater at the Music Hall in New York on March 26, 1946. One advantage is that they can eat here without changing into street clothes. The cafeteria, which is for the use of all the theaterÂs employees, is open until about 8 p.m.
On a warm spring day, some of the Rockettes get exercise with a medicine ball on the Music Hall roof in New York on March 26, 1946. The roof is a summertime center of leisure-time activities for the theater’s employees. It has a handball court, paddle tennis ture for sunbathing and relaxation. Parties and dances are given on the roof.
Some of the backstage activities. Some of the Rockettes relax in the library-lounge backstage at Radio City Music Hall in New York on March 26, 1946. They use it for reading, studying, letter-writing, and lounging. There is a circulating libra
Olga Burke, one of the Radio City Music HallÂs Rockettes, has her ankle taken care of in the backstage hospital in New York on March 26, 1946. Three full-time nurses and a part-time doctor are on the hospitalÂs staff
Dancing on the worldÂs largest theater stage four times a day and a full rehearsal schedule would be enough to occupy the ordinary girl, but a quartette of Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, in New York City, find time to become artists off state as well as on. The girls devote, them free time to serious studying the American Art School, Manhattan, sketching and painting, and try their hand at art backstage during rest periods. Here at the art school on June 13, 1951, Ginny Volmer, left, of St. Louis, Mo., gets critical attention from instructor Raphael Soyer, as Croliss Fyfe, Hewlett, L.I.; Eleanor Dunne, Wayne, Ohio, and Pat White, Tuckahoe, N.Y.; sketch the model on the platform. Mr. Soyer has paintings of dancers hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as well as several other leading galleries.
Enjoying the benefit of the sun, dressed in rehearsal costumes, on the play roof of ManhattanÂs Radio City Music Hall, these three Rockettes sketch the skyline between shows in New York on June 13, 1951. The girls study art at the American Art School in Manhattan in their free time.
Back in the line, Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, Corliss Fyfe, Eleanor Dunne, Ginnie Volmer and Pat White, get down to being dancers again in New York on June 13, 1951. When free from rehearsals, or on stage, the girls study and practice their art of sketching and painting.
Clad in rehearsal togs, Corliss Fyfe, Hewlett, Long Island, sketches a picture on the Radio City Music HallÂs roof playground while prettily framed in one herself in New York City on June 13, 1951. She is one of four girls who devote their stare time to the serious study of sketching and painting while not rehearsing or dancing with the precision dancing Music Hall Rockettes, in New York City.
To accent the size of the giant 70-foot-wide new screen at Radio City Music Hall in New York, the Rockettes, all 36 of them, stretch across the stage, 72 feet wide, shownJan. 8, 1954. The screen was installed for the theaterÂs first Cinemascope film, ÂKnights of the Round TableÂ. It will remain as part of the permanent equipment. Thirty-three feet high, the Magnaglo-Astrolite screen shows an image 70 feet wide and 28 feet high. It is believed to be the worldÂs largest movie screen. It is made of four laminated layers of cloth, plastic, and silver. (
Waiting offstage for rehearsal call at New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall, two of the Rockettes keep busy with needlework on Feb. 13, 1958. Loraine Berry, left, shows Tina Gargano a bikini dance brief, while Tina crochets a doily from a new pattern. Lorraine, who danced on the West Coast before joining the Rockettes troupe, found the bikinis popular among dancers there. After coming east she found she had beaten the fad to New York. So she started sewing the dance brief and selling them to her colleagues.
Jane Freund crochets a bedspread while a fellow dancer sews at a machine in one of dressing rooms backstage of New York’s Radio City Music Hall between the two-hour waits for their shows as the Rockettes, on Feb. 13, 1958.
In front of a mirror in the film theaterÂs rehearsal hall, Mary Ann Strilka (right) and Jean Mullenix practice hand movements on Oct. 15, 1958. They are two of the Rockette dancers in New York.
A hula costume is fitted on dancer Mary Ann Strilka by Leanne Mitchell in New York on Oct. 15, 1958 while Frank Spencer holds the sketch from which the costume was made. Miss Mitchell is director of the costume department of the Rockettes, and Spencer is the costume designer. Mary Ann is a member of the famed New York dance troupe.
Thirty-six girls, dancing as one on the huge stage of New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall on Oct. 15, 1958, are the envy of many other girls throughout the United States. The dancers are the celebrated Rockettes. One of the dancers, Mary Ann Strilka of Olyphant, Pa., in a black leotard, white ballet slippers and socks is caught by the camera in some of the behind-the-scenes work at the theater.
Some of the Radio City Music HallÂs Rockettes as they were performing in the annual MacyÂs Thanksgiving Day parade in New York on Nov. 27, 1958. Some of the police-estimated 1,250,000 that watched the parade keep an eye on the dancers as they approach 34th Street and Broadway, near the end of the march.
The Manhattan Rockettes from New York City kick up their heels entertaining Indiana Republicans in Indianapolis on Nov. 14, 1961. The fund-raising show cost $25,000 to produce.
A last minute run-through of their routine is held by the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in the lobby of the RCA Building before going outside for taping of their part in the TV color special made in Rockefeller Center in New York on April 12, 1962. This section of the show was taped in the middle of the night, starting at 2 a.m.
The Radio City Rockettes, 36 in total, are about to rehearse their precision 20-kick-a-minute routine for the annual Christmas Spectacular show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Dec. 13, 1962. The theater is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
The 36 Rockettes go through a dance number as they rehearse for their Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall in New York in December 1963.
These girls are among the ten replacements filling in as Rockettes for the summer at the famed Radio City Music Hall in New York on July 30, 1965. The job gives the girls the opportunity for hard work, long hours, the thrill of big time show business and perhaps a springboard to stardom. From left: Donna Sarantakes, Boston; Carolyn Bahr, Pittsburgh; Kathy Christie, Union, N.J.; Nancy Conant, Jacksonville, Ill., and Joan Sheary, Worcester, Massachusetts.
A group of Rockettes stands ready to start rehearsals for a new show on April 5, 1966. They rehearse new numbers even while their current show is still running. New shows are usually put together over a ten day period during which dance numbers are polished and new costumes made ready. The group puts on an average of ten different shows each year.
Bunny-eared Rockettes relax during a rehearsal of the current Easter show at New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall on April 5, 1966. The Easter and Christmas shows are both highlights of the year at the Music Hall. Thousands line up to get into the theater for the shows while they are on. Show time starts at 10 a.m. and continues for the Rockettes until after 10 p.m. at night. When the last show of the day is done. The film which accompanies the show keeps the audience in their seats in the giant 6,200-seat hall until nearly midnight.
Three Rockettes walk to work for an early morning rehearsal in New York on April 5, 1966. Many of the girls share apartments to cut costs. Rockettes are recruited from among girls with dancing talent from high schools and colleges throughout the U.S. and Canada. Some of the girls come to New York from other countries to try out for the troupe. These three are, left to right: Karen Knowles of Bangor, Me., Verna Pharo of Barnegat, N.J. and Delores Heiner of Bennington, Vt.
Left to right are Louise Thompson of Long Beach, Calif., Judy Little of Camden, N.J., and Joyce Hector of West Orange, N.J., fitted for costumes for a new show in the Radio City Music HallÂs costuming department in New York on April 5, 1966. Fittings are sandwiched into periods between rehearsals and performances.
Four members of New York CityÂs Radio City Music Hall Rockettes precision dance team take a break during rehearsals for a new show on April 5, 1966. The work is hard and the hours long for the girls who make the troupe. There are 46 girls in the troupe. These four, left to right, are Jane Simpson of Bangor, Mo., Jeanne Carroll of Hawthorne, N.Y., Susan Boron of Niles, Ohio and Diane McDonald of Union, N.J.
Members of the high-kicking Rockettes line up for their first rehearsal, as they prepare to go back onstage at the Radio City Music Hall in New York on Oct. 13, 1967. The girls returned after a 27-day strike and under their new agreement will receive rehearsal pay
The unique, art deco auditorium of Rockefeller Center’s Radio City Music Hall, the world’s largest theater with a 60-foot high proscenium arch, and a full city block in width, is seen in 1968. The Radio City Music Hall Symphony Orchestra can be seen in the pit. The theater seats 6,200 people. (AP Photo)
World-famous Radio City Music Hall Rockettes perform in their ÂParisien PoniesÂ number on August 24, 1976.
The Rockettes perform on the stage of Radio City Music Hall in New York on Jan. 5, 1978.
Four members of the famous Rockettes troupe pose just before showtime at New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall on Jan. 6, 1978. They are, from left: Jackie Fancy, Joan Peer, Carol Harbich and Eileen Collins. The last line-up for the Rockettes troupe, the most famous precision dancing group in the world, may be on April 12. That is when their home, the music hall plans to close after 45 years in Rockefeller center.
Some of the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes prepare themselves for a dress rehearsal in New York on March 2, 1978. Later in the day they put on the first performance of their annual Easter Show. If the entertainment palace closes as scheduled on April 12, this Easter’s gala could be the Music Hall’s last.
Rockette Cindy Peiffer, dressed in armor suit, right, waits outside New York City’s radio city music hall on April 2, 1978 as a man signs a petition to extend the life of the famous showplace. Rockettes and Radio City Music Hall employees gathered the signatures of many people who were on line to see the Easter show. The music hall is scheduled to close on April 12.
Costumed Rosemary Novellino, one of the famed Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, joins other Music Hall employees in collecting signatures on petitions to keep the historic hall open in New York on April 2, 1978. The music hall staff, some pressed in costumes, collected the signatures from crowds in line for Sunday, April 2, performance. The music hall is scheduled to close on April 12.
Radio City Music Hall Rockettes kick for the cameras at a photo exhibit showing the art deco interior of the famed hall on April 11, 1978. The exhibit, which opened on Tuesday at New YorkÂs fashion institute of technology, is sponsored by the American society of interior designers. The show will move to Washington D.C. following its closing in Manhattan on July 19.
Flowers are handed out both from the audience and by top-hatted man to the Rockettes of New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall on April 12, 1978 after the dancers completed their final scheduled performance in the venerable theater.
Radio City Music Hall Rockette Phyllis Wujko yells with delight, April 13, 1978 after the announcement that a way had been found to keep radio city music hall open. On Wednesday night Phyllis and the other Rockettes gave what they thought would be their last show.
The stars applaud as Radio City Musical Hall Rockettes leave the stage after the “Night of the 100 stars” at Radio City in New York, in a benefit for the Actors Fund of America. From front are: Gene Kelley, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, George Burns, Alfred Drake, Ginger Rogers, Paul Newman, Ethel Merman, Martin Balsam, Farley Granger, Pam Dawber, Joan Collins and at the top Richard Kiley and Arlene Dahl. On the bottom right are Robin Williams, Edward Asner and Sammy Davis Jnr.
The Rockette’s rehearsing in New York’s Central Park on Dec. 7, 1982.
Singer Placido Domingo shares a laugh with members of the Rockettes at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, Feb. 27, 1984. The singer and dancers met while rehearsing for Channel Thirteen’s “Gala of Stars 1984.”
A Mickey Mouse character and one of the Rockettes hug each other at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Feb. 1, 1985. Walt Disney Productions has changed its mind and will allow the high-kicking Rockettes to appear in the summer show at Radio City Music Hall, the hall announced on Friday.
Six members of Radio City Music HallÂs Rockettes pose in New York on Dec. 23, 1987 preparing for their appearance at Super Bowl XXII on Jan. 31, 1988. From left, Setsuko Maruhashi, Susan Heart, Susanne Doris, Prudy Gray Demmler, Connie House, and Jereme Sheehan. Radio City Music Hall is producing the half-time show, to be called ÂSomething Grand!
Santa Claus, also known as Charles Edward Hall, kicks up his heels along with the Radio City Music Rocketts to celebrate the first day of public ticket saes for the annual holiday treat, the Christmas Spectacular in New York on August 29, 1991. The show, a New York tradition, runs at Radio City from November 15th thru January 7th.
Maureen Rose takes a break from the rigors of auditioning for the Rockettes at New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall on March 11, 1993. A panel of judges not only reviewed over 100 women for their dance techniques, but for their stamina as well. During the dance troupeÂs annual holiday presentations, the dancers can perform up to five times a day. (
Rockette want-a-beesÂ go through some dance steps during open auditions for the dance troupe at New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall on March 11, 1993. Over 100 women showed up to demonstrate their tap, jazz, ballet and modern dance techniques in hopes of landing one of the 85 spots that make up the group.
A Rockette hopeful stands in the spotlight as she awaits her turn to audition for a position on the dance troupe at New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall, March 11, 1993. An entertainment institution, the Rockettes hold their annual auditions to help fill the ranks of 85 women who make up the dance troope. The Rockettes celebrated their 60th anniversary on stage this year.
Radio City Music Hall stage manager Howard Kolis reads off the names of Rockette hopefuls who failed to make it past the first round during open auditions for dance troope in New York on Tuesday, March 11, 1993. The precision dance team is celebrating its 60th anniversary on stage
Violent Holmes, right, senior choreographer for the Rockettes, gives some dance steps instructions to Cassandra Palacio during open auditions for the dance troupe at New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall, March 11, 1993. Over 100 women turned out for this year’s audition. Holmes is a former Rockette.
Radio City Music Hall Rockette Kiki Bennett stretches before the beginning of rehearsals for the Radio City Easter Show in New York on March 24, 1995. The troupe rehearsed such dance numbers as Happy Feet and Easter Parade.
A Rockette hopeful looks at pictures of the dance troope while waiting her turn to strut her stuff before a panel of judges during open auditions at New YorkÂs Radio City Music Hall on March 11, 1993. An annual affair, scores of women try to aspire to be part of one of the most famous entertainment institutions in the world.