How to Speak Rockette

November 6, 2019

Dream of performing the Radio City Rockettes’ ultra-precise choreography? You’ll need to learn some ultra-specific terminology! We asked four first-year Rockettes—fresh from learning all that choreo—to define a few useful phrases from their “secret” language.


“This is a military term, so I had no idea what it meant when we started learning ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’! It’s a 180-degree turn of your entire body, done as sharply, efficiently, and smoothly as possible.” —Sydney Mesher

The Rockettes performing “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” (courtesy MSG Photo)


“This is when you face straight front and turn your head to one corner, but leave your eyes in the mirror.” —Soultana Schiavi


“You’re ‘covered off’ to another dancer when you’re dancing or standing exactly behind her, so that theoretically you would completely disappear behind her when viewed from certain angles.” —SM

The Rockettes on their famous “bus tour” of Manhattan (courtesy MSG Photo)


“When your hands are on your hips, there are three elbow placements. A ‘flat elbow’ means your elbows point straight to either side. ‘Perpendicular elbow’ is more of a natural position, with the shoulders back and chest open. For an ‘extreme back elbow,’ you pull your elbows together behind you so they point to the back as much as possible.” —Abbey Kowalec

The Rockettes performing as reindeer in “Sleigh Ride” (courtesy MSG Photo)


“To help us figure out our exact spacing, the Radio City stage is marked like a grid. Running stage left to stage right are a series of lines: dotted, then solid, then dotted, then solid. A ‘depth’ is the space between a particular set of lines.” —Regan Hutsell


“As Rockettes, we always ‘guide right.’ That means that in a kickline or formation, I confirm my spacing based on where the dancer to my right is. We each ‘guide right’ all the way down to the stage-right end—that’s how our formations stay so clean!” —SM

Rockettes in the famous “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” fall (Courtesy MSG Photo)


“When our eyes are front, but our heads are turned and tilted back, as if sunshine were streaming down on our cheeks.” —SS


“These are two common spacings—one where your heels are right in front of a particular line (‘heeling’), and one where your toes are right behind a line (‘toeing’).” —RH

The Rockettes perform another kickline in “New York at Christmas” (courtesy MSG Photo)


“Just a cute way to say ‘hands on hips’!” —AK


“Another head position, in which your head should be pointing in the direction of the third mezzanine, with your eyes following.” —SS

The finale of “Christmas Lights” (courtesy MSG Photo)


“A bevel, but in relevé. Having been a ballet dancer growing up, I love that combination of ballet terminology and the signature Rockette bevel.” —AK