Getting a Kick Out of a Rockette

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Rockette Ami Price talks about microphones on tap shoes, Santa’s sleigh and the Living Nativity

By Angela Barbuti

Ami Price

Christmas in New York City would not be the same without the Rockettes. The iconic group of girls, who have been kicking their way into our hearts at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for what seems like forever, are celebrating their 85th anniversary. Ami Price, one of the 80 dancers, has been part of the sisterhood that is the Rockettes for 10 years. “They are my best friends. They were all guests at my wedding, and the people I invite over for Christmas,” she said.

The Rockettes are celebrating their 85th year. How is the show different this year?
We have a costume retrospective, showing costumes throughout the 85 years. We’re always adding new numbers. There’s a new scene with Kayla and her mother that shows a 3D video game, which uses the world’s largest LED screen. They use digital projection on the walls of the theater to make you feel a part of the scenes. You’re part of Santa’s workshop and you’re part of the Living Nativity.

I read that you practice six hours, six days a week in preparation for the show.
Yes, we train for about six weeks. Six hours a day, six days a week. Pretty intense. We’re all athletes and dance on the off season. I’m a personal trainer. But once we begin practice, we are learning the precision and getting our high kicks back to perfection. We get in shape really fast those six weeks. [Laughs]

What do you do to prepare for a show?
We are a big sisterhood, so the dressing room is half of the fun. I’m in there with eight of my best friends, so we have a good time getting ready. We do our own makeup and costumes. Our changes are, at most, two minutes, so we have a talented wardrobe who dresses us. We have a pair of shoes for each costume. For our eight-minute tap number, “Twelve Days of Christmas,” those tap shoes are actually miked. There are microphones on the bottom of each shoe.

Give us a glimpse backstage at Radio City Music Hall.
Backstage is not as large as one would imagine, because the stage is so massive. The amusing part of being backstage is the set pieces. For instance, the bus is so large, and there’s nowhere to put it. So when the bus comes offstage, they fly it into the rails. So when you’re backstage, you look up and see these props, like Santa’s sleigh. My dressing room is on the fourth floor, and I only go there to get ready and at the end of the show. Since all the changes are happening on stage level, there are just soldier costumes everywhere. It’s such a funny atmosphere.

What reaction do you get when you tell people you’re a Rockette?
They love it! [Laughs] They won’t believe it; they’ll ask me to kick.

Tell me about your work with Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams charity.
We visit the Ronald McDonald House and—hopefully I don’t cry when I tell you this—I went to a children’s hospital last year in Westchester and it’s so hard because you’re seeing sick children and it’s Christmas. I went to work recently and a little girl, who I had seen in the hospital, was waiting for me. As soon as I walked in, she said, “I missed you.” This little girl, who had brain cancer, told me, “I don’t have my boo boo anymore.”

For tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, visit www.radiocitychristmas.com.

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