The Radio City Rockettes are known the world over for their envy-inducing high kicks and hot legs. While many exercise studios offer popular barre classes that promise to help us develop a dancer's body, just how much work does it really take to get into Rockette shape?
CBS News spoke with veteran Rockette Christina Cichra about what's involved in this incredibly demanding role.
Cichra explained that she had to beat out 500 to 600 hopefuls in a two-day audition process to score her place in the company. On day one, the dancers must demonstrate proficiency in tap, jazz and ballet; perform jazz combinations in heels; and show how they fare in the kick line. Those who survive the first round of cuts are invited to come back and repeat the grueling process the next day.
"Many of us have been dreaming about this since childhood," says Cichra. "That serves as motivation when your body wants to give up."
The audition process alone sounds brutal, but when the women are accepted into the Rockettes, the real work begins. Cichra says the 80 members of the company prepare for show time by enduring six hours of rehearsals a day, six days a week, for six weeks.
"We build up our stamina so our bodies start to know what we can get through," Cichra explains.
The schedule is intense; in order to get a similar physical experience you would have to do five or six barre classes in a row wearing body weights to simulate the heavy costumes the women don for each show.
"We're burning tons of calories. Some of us lose weight because we're working out so much," Cichra says. She fuels her long days of dancing by eating four to five small meals a day. "Sometimes I feel myself craving a steak because I need iron or protein," she says.
Performing in up to five shows a day at an hour and a half each, the Rockettes get accustomed to eating more than usual to sustain their energy levels. "We eat more than the average person. I always eat breakfast. Throughout the day I eat protein and carbs, and treats are important," says Cichra. Her favorites: chocolate covered strawberries and pizza. Sometimes, if their Instagram photos are to be believed, the Rockettes even splurge on cupcakes.
Even with their voracious appetites, the dancers still lose weight. As their bodies change shape over the course of performances, Cichra says professional tailors are standing by to alter their elaborates costumes. "Weight loss happens for almost everyone."
Just when you're thinking that jumping in to a chorus line would be a great way to drop a few pounds, consider what the dancers go through after the show. A Rockette's post-show ritual includes stretching and a ten-minute, 40-degree ice bath. "It's an intense for 10 minutes, but afterward you feel so good," Cichra says. "Once the show's over, it's important to take some time to recover." She says some girls will have chocolate milk or a shake while they soak in the tub just to keep their minds off of the cold water.
The Rockettes' season ends on December 31 this year. But that doesn't mean it's time to slack off. In the off-season, Cichra explains that the dancers still have to stay physically fit and continue to build strength if they want to return the following year, as she's done since 2007. She says most of them will do yoga, personal training or Pilates after the show is wrapped. And they all have to remember to rein in their diets.
"In the off-season you have to remember to cut back on food so you don't gain too much weight," says Cichra.