Pin-up My Holidays: The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Radio City Rockettes DVD

We all have interesting traditions for this time of year, don’t we? Some of us always get together at the same location… have the same meal… have a certain way of handing out presents… For my family, it’s the annual watching of Christmas specials that has been our tradition. It all started when my late father recorded Christmas specials onto tapes for us to watch again and again each year back in the 80’s. Everything from the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Mickey’s Christmas Carol made it onto those tapes. A Garfield Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer… they’re all there. By the way, did you know that the classic Rudolph special featured a mostly Canadian cast? 😉

The Rockettes in "New York at Christmas" in the Radio City Chris

Back to the point, after my father passed away suddenly in the early 90’s, these tapes became one of my family’s dearest treasures. Every year, we would watch those specials, and I found I could feel a closeness with my father yet again. In a way, I was glad that DVDs came along so that I could get the shows in that format, and no longer risk destroying the tapes with another viewing. Plus, sharing these specials with children in my circle and watching their reactions for the first time made me feel like I was sharing a part of my father with them, and keeping his memory alive. I’ve started watching some of those shows again this season, and as I type this, I’m sitting down to a newer favorite I’ve added to that collection: the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

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Having held the record as the world’s largest synchronized dance troupe, the Radio City Rockettes first tapped and kicked their way into our hearts back in 1925 as Russell Markert’s Missouri Rockets. Showman Samuel L. Roxy saw their potential, and had them moved out to New York City as the Roxyettes. When the Radio City Music Hall opened in 1933, the renamed Radio City Rockettes took to the stage on opening night, and the legend was born. In the same year, they presented the first Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and it has been going strong ever since.

The Rockettes as reindeer in the Radio City Christmas Spectacula

When the Rockettes first appeared, North America was in the middle of the Great Depression. People needed a reason to smile and forget their problems for a while, and the ladies provided that with each performance. They became an iconic symbol of grace, beauty, and talent in the dancing world, and many a girl dreamed of becoming a Rockette one day. And what musical fanatic doesn’t sing along when they hear the strains of I Wanna Be a Rockette”? 😉

Over the years, however, changing times and tastes reduced the number of appearances and shows for the ladies. Even today, my friends look at me dumbfounded when I mention my annual tradition, and have no clue who these phenomenal performers are. Despite their drop in the public lexicon, the Rockettes and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular are still active parts of Christmas in New York, and the show sells out each holiday season. They have even expanded their show to a tour, and have added a new modern performance called the New York Spring Spectacular that is bringing them back into the limelight.

The Rockettes get ready for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

What I like most about the Radio City Rockettes and the Christmas Spectacular is that women of all different ethnicities are represented among the dancers, and even different heights. There’s actually a cool trick they do to create the illusion of them all being the same height, but let’s keep that a secret, shall we? 😉  The troupe harkens to an era of elegance and simplicity that I think we all could use a little of in this dark, complicated world we live in. And even though the dancers could be viewed as “showgirls”, their costumes and moves are very tasteful compared to many performers we see today. (Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus, anyone?) Though some of the sequences use costumes that match their earlier days, they are quite modest, and some of the numbers, like “The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”, use full, fun outfits directly aimed at kids. As an aunt, I would feel comfortable letting my nephew see this show without worrying about him seeing anything inappropriate. Plus, the show stays fresh by changing numbers over the various seasons, while still maintaining some of the classics like my favorite—“The Living Nativity”. One day I intend to see this show live in New York City, but until then, the annual watching of the DVD will remain one of my holiday traditions.

The Rockettes in the "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" in the Radi

For more information about the Radio City Rockettes, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, or the New York Spring Spectacular, please visit the Rockettes’s website at https://www.rockettes.com/. As of this article’s press date, the DVD from their 75th anniversary is sold out on Amazon.ca. However, if you’re willing to order it from the US, it is available from Amazon.com here. Please feel free to check your local library to see if they have a copy, as that is where I have rented mine for the last few years. And if you have a chance to see them in person, do it. You won’t regret it.

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Always with love,

Liz

The Canuck Pin-up

For Terry – I love you, Dad…

P.S. Click here and check out the new Canuck Pin-up page on Facebook for more news, pictures, and tips about the vintage and pin-up scene here in Canada.

Final Photo Notes: Photographer – Katie Pahara Photography Boudoir; Hair and Makeup – Katt Panic MUA; Dress – Hell Bunny; Shoes – T.U.K. Shoes.

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