RHS student dancers kick up careers in NYC

The Rockettes hosted the camp at their practice studio.

Avery Miller-Dakota, Culture Editor

In an effort to correct young Jessica Weil’s unconventional walking style, her mother Rosy Hong, enrolled her into dance at the age of 3. Though the cleansing power of dance was strong, as the years progressed dancing became more than a simple fix to an unorthodox walking mannerism. Following suit, Jessica’s younger sister Katie joined her in the studio when she came of age. At the time, Hong’s only motivation was to instill strength, balance and poise both mentally and physically into her daughters’ lives. Little did she know both girls would dance alongside some of the best and brightest, including current Radio City Rockettes.

Rockefeller Center serves as an American holiday treasure. Along with the iconic tree lighting ceremony, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, a famed precision dance troupe, kicks off the holiday season in an annual November debut. Both Jessica, senior, and Katie, freshmen, kicked up their own dance careers when they auditioned for the Rockette Summer Intensive, a summer program current Rockettes host, in January of 2016 in a qualifying Detroit studio. A mere thirty-five percent of all auditioners were given good news.

Following acceptance into the program, both Jessica and Katie packed their duffels and headed to New York City. There they met at the Rockette practice studio. Hong described the studio space.

“Although the Rockettes perform [at] Radio City [Music Hall], they do not practice there. Instead, they have a much larger, more open space that they use in the basement of a church in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City, not too far from Columbus Circle. . .The [studio] also serves as a training ground for up-and-coming dancers who would like to audition for the Radio City Rockettes in the future,” Hong said.

Daily activities consisted of various aerobic pastimes, new choreography and hour-long sessions regarding the quirks of professional dance. Parents were banned from rehearsals – an adjustment to which the girls quickly became accustomed. Jessica discussed the daily schedule.    

“Four actual Radio City Rockettes taught us actual Radio City Rockette dances from throughout the years. . . . It was really intense though, because we danced from 9 am to 6 pm every day. It started off with a warm up one of the Rockettes would lead. . .Then we [learned] choreography. We [learned] three different dances: a tap, a jazz, and the [Parade of the Wooden Soldiers] dance which is a famous Rockette dance,” Jessica said.

Katie elaborated on the process of learning the different dances.

“It [was] really specific the way we did it because. . .on the floor [there were] different colored lines spaced out and numbers across the room and you would have to remember exactly what colored line and what number you stood on for each formation and whether your heels were touching the line or your arches were touching the line or your toes were touching your lines,” Katie said.

The entire camp showcased their talents at a public performance at the end of the week. Hong commented on the difference in demeanor she saw in the girls by the end of the week.

“It did motivate them a little more to consider auditioning for a professional group at some point in the future. Attending a program like this showed them the type of discipline, devotion and physical demand that is required of professional dancers.  It did not scare them off, and in fact, they enjoyed it immensely,” Hong said.

By the end of the week, both girls radiated captivation with life as a Rockette. Though neither Jessica nor Katie meet the strict height requirement the dance troupe has put in place, both girls wish to pursue dance following high school through some avenue or another; though both wish to attend college before venturing into the world of professional dance.