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Interview: Rockettes Dance Captain, Danelle Morgan, Talks New Height Requirement, Diversity, and What It Takes to Join the Line

Danelle Morgan is a 16-year veteran of the Rockettes who sat down with us to discuss ongoing auditions for the company, the prestigious Conservatory program, and more!

Interview: Rockettes Dance Captain, Danelle Morgan, Talks New Height Requirement, Diversity, and What It Takes to Join the Line

New York City's iconic Radio City Rockettes launched auditions this month for hopeful young dancers looking to join the company in 2022 and beyond!

On Monday, April 18, the company held their Rockette open call, followed by two additional open call dates for Female/Non-Binary ensemble dancers on Thursday, April 21 and Male/Non-Binary ensemble dancers on Monday, April 25! Auditions for the 2022 Rockettes company will continue in August 2022. Dancers interested in auditioning must register in advance at www.radiocityauditions.com.

Dancers attending the audition could receive a coveted spot on The Rockettes line for the 2022 Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes or, an offer to attend the invite-only Rockettes Conservatory program, a week-long training intensive presented at no cost to participating dancers.

Rockettes Conservatory serves as the main talent pipeline for the dance company, ensuring The Rockettes line continues to evolve by attracting the best dancers from all backgrounds.

Additionally, to create a more inclusive line by broadening the number of dancers eligible to become Rockettes, the company is expanding the height requirement from 5'6"-5'10½" to now 5'5"-5'10½".

The company has also established strong partnerships with a variety of diverse dance organizations including Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), Harlem School of the Arts (HSA), The Ailey School and International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD).

Through these partnerships, The Rockettes provide program support, introduce staff and students to the unique world of precision dance, and actively engage with dancers for the Conservatory program.

To learn more about all the iconic dance troupe has in store for 2022, we sat down for a chat with Rockette dance captain, Danelle Morgan. Danelle is a 16-year veteran of The Rockettes who began her journey to Radio City as a youngster, learning under the tutelage of a former member of the company. As a young adult, Danelle trained at the Ailey School and planned for for a career as a concert dancer. There, she took a Rockette workshop, giving life to a passion for precision dance and the start a long, happy career with the organization, entertaining millions and inspiring young dancers everywhere.


What is it that you guys look for in a Rockette traditionally or non-traditionally?Interview: Rockettes Dance Captain, Danelle Morgan, Talks New Height Requirement, Diversity, and What It Takes to Join the Line

We look for attention to detail because there's 36 of us on stage and we all dance as one. So, [we look for] attention to detail the specificity in movement. We love strong, solid technique and dynamics. We also like to see that person that obviously loves to dance! Someone who obviously loves to do what they do. There's that little spark that shines through that you can't really describe, you just see it and you know what it is.

As far as dance training goes, are there styles of dance that are more desirable than others?

We love versatility. We're all very trained in ballet, of course. I studied at the Ailey School, so I was ballet and modern primarily, but I also studied tap, and tap is a big part of our show as well. We wear live microphones on the bottom of our tap shoes, so we need to make sure that we can get those clear, crisp sounds. Our director and choreographer, Julie Branham, really looks for versatile, strong, powerful dancers.

There's another exciting development happening right now, which is that you guys are adding an inch to your height requirement.

We're broadening the accessibility. In getting that extra inch it opens the door for more dancers to potentially become a Rockette. We've seen great talent over the years and they just didn't necessarily fit into that 5"6 to 5"10.5 range. So by bringing the height range down to 5"5, we're Interview: Rockettes Dance Captain, Danelle Morgan, Talks New Height Requirement, Diversity, and What It Takes to Join the Line really excited to see a continued strong caliber of dancers and just opening that eligibility up.

And I feel like that also speaks to the diversity initiatives that you've been working on, as well.

We've been around since in New York City since 1925. So the reason I think we've been around for so long is that we continue to strive to evolve and grow and change, you know? So we keep the core that is The Rockettes, a strong, powerful group of women and bringing the height requirement down is not taking away from any of that. It's only adding to what The Rockettes are and can be.

Tell me more about the new partnerships with diverse dance organizations in New York City.

It's been really amazing. We have partnerships with Dance Theatre of Harlem, Harlem School of the Arts, The Ailey School, and International Association of Blacks in Dance. We attend the International Alliance of Dance conferences year after year, and we have this partnership that's super close to my heart with the Ailey school. We actually went just this past week and we taught Rockette choreography at the Ailey school. So it was completely full circle. It's how it began for me, and so to go back to where it started for me and teach Rockette choreography was absolutely incredible. It's just really nice to see the interest in the Rockette program grow from when I went to take this workshop at the Ailey school. We had three rooms full of dancers, really engaged, and ready to learn this other thing that they're not necessarily learning rightInterview: Rockettes Dance Captain, Danelle Morgan, Talks New Height Requirement, Diversity, and What It Takes to Join the Line now at the Ailey school. It was just so special to bring our work to them.

So, what can selected dancers expect from The Rockettes Conservatory?

It's a week long intensive, which is all expenses paid, if you're invited, including housing and meals. We'll have classes taught by renowned choreographers in New York City, and then you'll also learn Rockette choreography and receive instruction in precision dance. That's the main thing that we are known for, and you'll learn it in the way that we teach choreography. So it starts to get your brain into our world, which is super unique. There is a certain vernacular that we use that is unique to the dance world. So, you'll get that unique opportunity to learn how we learn. It's a really well- rounded program. And I think what's so important about it is that you're not just doing Rockette work, you're getting excellent training around that as well. So you're maintaining versatility as a dancer, and it continues to challenge and push that. As The Rockettes, we continue to push and evolve and try and be as versatile as we can, so no matter who comes and wants to choreograph with the The Rockettes, we're able to keep up with every genre that we're asked to do. We want to make sure that the dancers that we're training are reflections of that.

As someone who has come through that same audition room and process, what advice would you have for dancers heading into the auditions?

Interview: Rockettes Dance Captain, Danelle Morgan, Talks New Height Requirement, Diversity, and What It Takes to Join the Line I always like to remind everybody that I was not hired the first time in auditioned. It took me three times to get the job. The big thing that I did after every audition is that I made sure that I learned something and self-evaluated and grew every single time. So every time I stepped into that room, I was more prepared than the last time I auditioned. If you audition and it's your first time, and it doesn't happen, do not be discouraged by that. I think it's super important to just do your best, learn from everything that happened and go back in and try again.

What's your favorite thing about being a part of The Rockettes organization?

My goodness. That's like the hardest question in the world. You know, what I didn't anticipate about the job is that it would become so much of my identity. At some point it became, rather than me just being Danelle Morgan, I'm Danelle the Rockette. It's a part who I am as a person. It's something that sort of travels with me throughout life, and it something that I wear with so much pride. I think it's the legacy of this thing that has been around for so long. And it truly is a sisterhood. It's become such a vital part of my livelihood, my day to day, and my friendships. It's not just the Christmas Spectacular. It's gone above and beyond that. And that's something I didn't necessarily anticipate, but it's the thing that I'm most grateful for.


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