Megan Levinson during rehearsal with the Radio City Rockettes. Photo credit: MSG Entertainment.
Each year the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes graces the Radio City Music Hall stage. The show, which made its debut in 1933, features a cast of 150 performers, including 40 Radio City Rockettes in each cast.
Dance Network had the opportunity to speak with Rockette Megan Levinson, who first started with the show in 2001 when she played Clara in the Chicago production. Her memories of the show have come full-circle now that she's a nine-year veteran of the famed Rockettes.
Levinson reminisced what that first Clara audition was like when she was 11 years old.
"My mother and sister were both with me. My sister was my biggest cheerleader. When they called all of the Claras to go into the audition room, I was in the bathroom," Levinson reminisced. "My sister came running in, 'Meg, Meg, it's time to go in!' She gave me this huge hug and told me I was going to be amazing. I went into the room and it was so fun."
Even though the Christmas Spectacular is an impressive show, Levinson didn't feel the pressure out there onstage. Instead, it was the experience of a lifetime.
"I was young and I thought it was the coolest thing. Now I get butterflies here and there," she explained. "But at the time, I was living my dream and you don't have those nerves. I don't remember feeling the pressure."
When Levinson was finally old enough and tall enough — Rockettes have to be between 5' 6" and 5' 10 1/2" tall — she auditioned for the famed troupe. The Rockettes audition was anything but easy.
12 Days of Christmas number in the 'Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes.' Photo credit: MSG Entertainment.
"It's a hard audition process. You have to prove you're proficient in jazz, tap and ballet," she shared. "You have to pick up all of the details quickly. You have to remain calm and on top of all of that, you have to show that you love to dance."
She got the position the first year she auditioned, but she didn't get the job in the first round of tryouts, which happened in the spring. Levinson made it to the end, but she didn't get the job. She returned for their August auditions and that's the round that made her a Rockette — with some lessons learned from that first audition.
"I remained in my own lane. Instead of looking around and looking at other people. I focused on myself," she said. "I put all of the work in and went over the details I remembered from the first round. It's not only a physical audition, but it's also a mental audition. You have to have the right mindset."
Now in her ninth season as a Rockette, Levinson makes sure to keep her body and her mind healthy throughout the season since she might perform in up to four shows a day and up to 16 shows a week. Self-care is extremely important.
"I am in the night cast, so sometimes I have a 10 p.m. show and I'm not done until 11:30 p.m. I do a 30-minute cool-down. I stretch, I roll out my muscles and I ice anything that is sore," she explained. "That makes a difference. If you don't take care of your body after three or four shows, it's all going to add up. Mentally, I relax and have fun in the dressing room, plus being on the Radio City stage is breathtaking."
Audiences this year are in for a treat with a new finale number that features state-of-the-art technology with 100 Intel drones that create patterns and movement on the stage along with digital projections, new costumes and fresh choreography. It's Levinson's favorite number in the show because it's where "innovation meets tradition at the same time. You can't find that anywhere else."
Even though Levinson loves the new production number in the show, it's the first notes of The Nutcracker scene that still move her to this day.
"It's pretty incredible, I hear The Nutcracker music right before we go on the stage for The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers. Sometimes I will get tears in my eyes because it's emotional and it brings back memories of performing in the Christmas Spectacular when I was younger," she summed up. "It's a reminder that things do come full circle sometimes. It's hard to put into words."
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