The Rockettes are an American precision dance company. Founded in 1925 in St. Louis, they have performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, since 1932. Until 2015, they also had a touring company. They are best known for starring in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, an annual Christmas show, and for performing annually at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The Rockettes also conduct the Rockette Summer Intensive for dancers aspiring to be Rockettes.
The Rockettes were originally inspired by the Tiller Girls, a precision dance company of the United Kingdom established by John Tiller in the 1890s. Tiller sent the first troupe of Tiller Girls to perform in the United States in 1900, and eventually there were three lines of them working on Broadway. In 1922, choreographer Russell Markert saw one of these troupes, known as the Tiller Rockets, perform in the Ziegfeld Follies and was inspired to create his own version with American dancers. As Markert would later recall, “If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks, they’d really knock your socks off.” They were originally called Roxyettes after the impresario Roxy, who was Radio City’s entertainment director. Only later would they become the Rockettes.
The Rockettes have long been represented by the American Guild of Variety Artists. In 1967, they won a month-long strike for better working conditions, which was led by American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) salaried officer Penny Singleton. In August 2002, contract negotiations for the troupe’s veteran members resulted in a buyout by the owners of The Radio City Music Hall. Roughly a fourth of the veteran Rockettes were offered retirement options, while the remaining dancers were offered the opportunity to re-audition.