What Happens When Mia Michaels Takes Over The Rockettes

May 5, 2016

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.

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