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Behind the Rockettes, a tough choreographer
Question of the Day
The Rockettes have shrugged off Superstorm Sandy. Rehearsals were canceled for three days and vans had to pick up stranded dancers, but there will be no delays. “It’s like New York. Everyone’s pulling together and working hard and we’ll get it done,” Haberman says.
THE MAGIC NUMBER 36
Haberman is an exacting task master. Calm, but steely. A graduate of the School of American Ballet, she became the youngest cast member in Bob Fosse’s “Dancin’.” Precision is in her blood.
“I’m tough with the ladies,” she says. “But I think they respect me and I think they respect the work they’re doing and that’s really the key.”
Haberman, who will start work on the next show in January, rehearses two casts at the same time _ a total of 152 people _ who alternate playing the punishing schedule of five shows a day, six days a week. There are 80 Rockettes since each show needs 36 ladies and four standbys.
Why 36? Partly that’s all the women who can happily fit shoulder-to-shoulder along the 70-foot stage. And partly it’s a number that Haberman has grown to adore.
“As a choreographer, you’re always playing with formations, especially with the Rockettes. Thirty-six is a great number because you can divide it by two, you can divide it by three,” she says. “Different choreographers like different numbers. I love 36. It becomes a math project.”
The Rockettes, some 500 applied last spring, come from different backgrounds _ some are Broadway dancers, some are Pilates instructors _ but they must stand between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-10 1/2. That’s simply due to Haberman’s attempt to arrange her dancers to make a “pleasing effect.”
Over the years, Haberman has helped hone the increasing strength and physicality of the Rockettes. The requirement to tap dance is the one that makes most stumble, but they often return the next year having nailed tap.
“I look at the line now compared with when I started in the `90s and they’ve just changed. These women train like crazy, they are all so strong and so tough and such good dancers _ it’s great,” she says. “Now I can choreograph anything. I’m not limited.”
Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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