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How to Become A Rockette, According To the Coach Who's Trained 36 Of Them
After 12 seasons dancing with the Rockettes, Rhonda Kaufman Malkin knows a thing or two about becoming one of Radio City's iconic dancers. Since 2006, Malkin has shared her secrets to success as a dance coach and personal trainer in New York City through her company Fusion Exercise. She's had 36 students book the Rockettes, and numerous others land Broadway shows, national tours, commercials and even Beyoncé's tour.
At the most recent Rockettes callback, over half of the 25 dancers had taken class with Malkin—and seven of them were offered contracts. Here's how to get to Radio City, according to Malkin.
1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
"Some dancers have great ballet technique, but their jazz or tap skills may not be as strong, so I hone in on those areas," says Malkin. For others, taking extra ballet classes to improve lines and alignment may be the missing puzzle piece.
2. Get in shape.
If a dancer is out of shape—lacking endurance, muscle tone or flexibility—Malkin switches on her personal trainer side to guide them back on track. "If you don't walk into the audition ready to put on the costume, you won't get work," she says. "Directors never think, 'Maybe if we give her two weeks she will look the part!'" More important than physical appearance is the overall strength benefits reaped from cross training—fewer injuries means more time to give 100% to training, auditions and eventually that dream job.
3. Dress the part.
Based on Malkin's experience, wearing trendy items—like thigh high boots or crop tops—might make a dancer stand out, but not always in a good way. "The current Rockettes director is very traditional, so I advise my students to wear a leotard, flesh color tights, and nude heels, with hair in a French twist," says Malkin. Makeup should be done as though "you are going on a date with the hottest person you know." Let your talent, hard work and love of dance set you apart.
4. Don't be discouraged if you can't tap.
Some dancers shy away from auditioning for the Rockettes or classic Broadway shows because of their lack of tap skills. Malkin has had at least 10 students come to her with zero tap training who later booked the Rockettes. One student performed with a modern company for five years, and called Malkin saying she wanted to book the Rockettes. "She was hungry, focused and practiced my steps as well as taking additional tap classes," recalls Malkin. "She booked the job within eight months."
5. Skip contemporary class.
Over the years, Malkin has observed increasingly popular contemporary styles decreasing dancers' abilities for precision, accurate counting and attack. So if a dancer is focused on becoming a Rockette or booking a classic Broadway show, Malkin strongly discourages taking contemporary classes.
6. Approach learning choreography as a skill.
During the first cut for the Rockettes audition, the combination is only demonstrated three times—you either get it or you don't. But don't stress if picking up choreography produces nightmares. Malkin's success with her students proves it is a skill that can be learned. For starters, she suggests counting while learning choreography, otherwise you are already one step behind.
7. Focus on what's in your control.
The requirements for being a Rockette are to be 5'6"-5'10.5" tall and proficient in ballet, jazz and tap. If a dancer does not meet those height requirements, it is out her control. But the technical and artistic requirements are completely within the dancer's power, and Malkin says those factors are the only ones worth worrying about.
8. Practice good audition etiquette.
If you get cut, simply say thank you and leave promptly. "You are never allowed to ask casting directors why you didn't make the cut," Malkin says. "That's my job as a coach to identify." If you do get to the end of an audition or callback, a simple thank you will do–no handshake required. Thank you notes are not required after auditions, but Malkin does advise sending handwritten notes to anyone involved in casting once a job is completed, saying you enjoyed the opportunity and hope to work with them again in the future.
There must be something in the water: Last week, we announced that Madonna is directing Michaela DePrince's upcoming biopic. And yesterday, we got wind of another major dance film: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox Searchlight has sealed the deal to make Ailey Ailey's life and work into a movie. Yes, please.
While some movies falter along their way to the big screen, we think this one's got legs (and hopefully a whole lot of lateral T's and hinges and coccyx balances, too). Why?
Back in 2012, after 14 years dancing with Mark Morris Dance Group, choreographer John Heginbotham ventured out on his own. Don't think of it as going solo, though.
Almost from the outset, Heginbotham has embarked on a series of fruitful collaborations with other artists, via his namesake company, Dance Heginbotham, and through a stream of independent projects. His creative partners have covered a range of talents and genres: illustrator Maira Kalman (in 2017's The Principles of Uncertainty), opera director Peter Sellars (for Girls of the Golden West, which debuted at San Francisco Opera in November), and contemporary-music luminaries such as Tyondai Braxton and Alarm Will Sound.
Here's What He Has To Say: About starting his company, his rehearsal process and why he's drawn to creative mash-ups.
Raise your hand if you've ever walked out of the studio with just one thought on your mind: a big, juicy cheeseburger. But raise your other hand if instead of getting that burger, you opted for a hearty salad or stir-fry.
While dancers need to fuel their bodies with nutrient-dense meals and snacks, plenty of foods get an unfair bad rap. "The diet culture in this country vilifies various food groups as being bad while championing others as good," says Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition and wellness manager at the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "But black-and-white thinking like that has no place when it comes to food."
Some foods have less nutrition than others, admits Hogan, but if you're eating what you crave and honoring your hunger and fullness cues, she says you'll probably get the variety of nutrients your body needs. Here are seven foods that can have a place on your plate—guilt-free.
When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.
"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."
Ten years is a long time for a dance production to run, but Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Sutra, an athletic, meditative spectacle featuring 19 Shaolin monks and a malleable set of 21 wooden boxes (designed by Antony Gormley) is still striking a chord with audiences worldwide. To celebrate the milestone, Sutra is returning to Sadler's Wells, where it all began. March 26–28. sadlerswells.com.
Whether playing a saucy soubrette or an imperious swan, Irina Dvorovenko was always a formidable presence on the American Ballet Theatre stage. Since her 2013 retirement at 39, after 16 seasons, she's been bringing that intensity to an acting career in roles ranging from, well, Russian ballerinas to the Soviet-era newcomer she plays in the FX spy series "The Americans."
We caught up with her after tech rehearsal for the Encores! presentation of the musical Grand Hotel, directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes and running March 21–25 at New York City Center. It's another tempestuous ballerina role for Dvorovenko—Elizaveta Grushinskaya, on her seventh farewell tour, resentfully checks into the Berlin hostelry of the title with her entourage, only to fall for a handsome young baron and sing "Bonjour, Amour."
When Andrew Montgomery first saw the Las Vegas hit Le Rêve - The Dream 10 years ago, he knew he had to be a part of the show one day. Eight years later, he auditioned, and made it to the last round of cuts. On his way home, still waiting to hear whether he'd been cast, he was in a motorcycle accident that ended up costing him half his leg.
But Montgomery's story doesn't end the way you might think. Today, he's a cast member of Le Rêve, where he does acrobatics and aerial work, swims (yes, the show takes places in and around a large pool) and dances, all with his prosthetic leg.
Camille A. Brown is on an impressive streak: In October, the Ford Foundation named her an Art of Change fellow. In November, she won an AUDELCO ("Viv") Award for her choreography in the musical Bella: An American Tall Tale. On December 1, her Camille A. Brown & Dancers made its debut at the Kennedy Center, and two days later she was back in New York City to see her choreography in the opening of Broadway's Once on This Island. Weeks later, it was announced that she was choreographing NBC's live television musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, to air on April 1.
An extraordinarily private person, few knew that during this time Brown was in the midst of a health crisis. It started with an upset stomach while performing with her company on tour last summer.
"I was drinking ginger ale, thinking that I would feel better," she says. Finally, the pain became so acute that she went to the emergency room in Mississippi. Her appendix had burst. "Until then, I didn't know it was serious," she says. "I'm a dancer—aches and pains don't keep you from work."
A flock of polyamorous princes, a chorus of queer dying swans, a dominatrix witch: These are a few of the characters that populate the works of Katy Pyle, who, with her Brooklyn-based company Ballez, has been uprooting ballet's gender conventions since 2011.
Historically, ballet has not allowed for the expression of lesbian, transgender or gender-nonconforming identities. With Ballez, Pyle is reinventing the classical canon on more inclusive terms. Her work stems from a deep love of ballet and, at the same time, a frustration with its limits on acceptable body types and on the stories it traditionally tells.
The latest fitness fad has us literally buzzing. Vibrating tools—and exercise classes—promise added benefits to your typical workout and recovery routine, and they're only growing more popular.
Warning: These good vibrations don't come cheap.