What Happens When Mia Michaels Takes Over The Rockettes
When the Radio City Rockettes announced that Mia Michaels was coming on board to direct and choreograph their New York Spectacular, we had a lot of questions. Sure, the queen of contemporary dance choreographed the opening number for the show last year, when the Rockettes brought on seemingly every big name in theater to help revamp their failed Heart and Lights show. But a production totally under the reigns of the often quirky, always unpredictable "So You Think You Can Dance" regular made us curious. How would the precise Rockettes take to her dynamic contemporary moves? Would we see any kicklines? We asked Michaels about her vision for the show— to "bring a Mia vocabulary into the Rockette world." But what does that look like?
Photo © MSG Entertainment.
When I watched the first number the Rockettes ran through at a rehearsal earlier this week, I didn't see much of that "Mia vocabulary." The tap number to a remixed "Singin' in the Rain" was pretty much your standard Rockettes fare, including some seriously impressive formation changes and patterns.
But then, Mia came out in full force. For "New York, New York," the dancers entered with an unexpected hip-hop swagger—which was soon followed by a classic kickline section. The transition didn't feel too forced, though. For "42nd Street," Mia had the Rockettes really let loose, with out-of-control Charlestons and kicks that bore no resemblance to their perfect eye-level grands battements.
But the most Mia-like moment was this crazy robot-dance-break, where she had the Rockettes lunging into deep second positions and accenting their transitions with quick body rolls. I asked two Rockette veterans what it was like to take on a more contemporary movement language. "We’re known for our high kicks, and now Mia has us in sneakers and deep pliés. But she is also taking into consideration our legacy," said Natalie Reid. Karen Ritchie feels her body working to adapt to the new style: "Every day going home I find a new muscle that I haven’t used. As Rockettes, when we’re kicking, we use a lot of the back of the leg. So now I’m starting to feel that the front of my leg is getting a greater workout."
It sounds like Mia is really pushing the Rockettes to their limits. You can see for yourself starting June 15, when the New York Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes opens at Radio City Music Hall.
New York City–based choreographer and director Jennifer Weber once worked on a project with a strict social media policy: " 'Hire no one with less than 10K, period'—and that was a few years ago," she says. "Ten thousand is a very small number now, especially on Instagram."
The commercial dance world is in a period of transition, where social media handles and follower counts are increasingly requested by casting directors, but rarely offered by dancers up front. "I can see it starting to show up on resumés, though, alongside a dancer's height and hair color," predicts Weber.
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
What happens during a performance is the product of the painstaking process of realizing an artistic vision. Whether held beforehand, afterward, offsite or online, audience discussions tend not to be so preordained, easily thrown off track without a skilled moderator at the helm.
"I'm someone who dreaded talkbacks and Q&As," admits Bill Bragin, former director of public programming at Lincoln Center. "While I was in New York, a lot of the time it was just audience members trying to show off how smart they were."
These events present a pile of difficult questions: How much do you reveal about a piece before it's shown? How can a conversation designed to hit key points feel casual and spontaneous? How do you cater to the needs of diverse attendees, from novice dancegoers to lifelong fans to scholars and critics? And how do you avoid smothering dance with language, flattening all its complexity?