The annual Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular Show is a New York City tradition dating back to 1933. The glamorous high-kicking all-female rings in the holiday season with choreographed dance numbers to beloved Christmas tunes. Like the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker, choreographed by George Balanchine, this performance runs regularly for more than a month. And upon viewing, you’ll see why the show is so incredibly, and enduringly, popular.
The Radio City Rockettes
The Radio City Rockettes define themselves as “the longest-running precision dance company in America, admired for their iconic style of dance.” In 2018, their Christmas Spectacular performance got a high-tech upgrade with a range of digital projections, but their show still includes the “Living Nativity” scene from their original production. The NYC-based dance troop also performs in seasonal annual events, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (as pre-parade act) and the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting.
Rockettes Christmas Show Tips
1. Read the seat descriptions carefully before booking.
The Radio City Rockettes perform in New York’s Radio City Hall – as you would guess – but the venue has just over 6,000 seats! You’ll be spending a pretty penny wherever you sit, but make sure that you’ll be happy with the views. It’s not like a football stadium or concert hall with live-streaming big screens for close-up looks.
If you get stuck in a nosebleed seat, you can best admire the animated displays that border the proscenium stage and the dancers’ precise formations. Seeing the dancers clearly was important to me, so I shelled out $180 for this once-in-a-lifetime Christmas treat. (Thankfully, I did find the splurge worthwhile.)
2. Arrive at the venue half an hour early.
I showed up 15 minutes before the NYC Christmas show began and felt very rushed to collect my tickets, squeeze in a toilet trip and find my seat. The enormous queues and getting through security was an entire production in and of itself. Happily, the Rockettes were able to revive my Christmas spirit during their one-act, 90-minute performance.
3. Do go to the restroom if you have to.
The one-act show means there are no breaks or longer intermissions; so just holding your bladder may have you squirming in your seats at the finale for all of the wrong reasons. (Attendees are allowed to leave and return to their seats during the performance, but it’s much better to miss the 2-minute introductory video countdown than another number.) The bathroom queue was long, but it moved quickly with a staff member directing visitors to free stalls.
The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular Review
If you’ve never been to this particular Christmas show, you might not know what to expect except for phenomenal kicklines. The Christmas Spectacular whisks the audience around New York City and travels to Santa’s toy factory in the North Pole, as well as the little town of Bethlehem, in a performance that includes live music, a heartwarming Christmas plot and plenty of dancing.
The Rockettes begin with a clever, syncopated tap dance version of The Twelve Days of Christmas before Santa makes his big entrance and the dancers reappear as spritely reindeer. The ladies radiate enthusiasm with unwavering mega-watt smiles that accompany their crisp choreography, and their flawless performance looks effortless.
The Rockettes also take to the stage to help Santa Claus demonstrate his cloning strategy (that allows him to be in multiple places at once), and they perform their signature slow motion fall, domino-ing backwards as toy soldiers. And it’s not just the Rockettes who dance, either. Another group of other dancers, cast as NYC locals, spruces up the stage in a jazzy, Broadway-like numbers.
You will certainly note the precise synchrony of the dancers and the formation changes. But strangely, it almost fades to a side note amidst the festive atmosphere. The relatively short, jam-packed show will charm you into the holiday mood.
Just make sure to keep the fuzzy warmth of Christmas magic cloaked around you after the performance; it’ll protect you against the loud vacuuming of the paper confetti and brusque requests to leave the theater, so the house staff can prepare for the next show.
Did you realize that the Radio City Rockettes annually perform a winter holiday show? And what most impressed you? Let us know in the comments below.