What is it about?

This article looks at the nearly one-hundred year old precision dance company, the Radio City Rockettes, to think about how community bonds are made. Often referred to as a "sisterhood" by the Rockette alumnae, the dancers create a group identity, or "community of practice," through the structure of the company and the shared labor required by the unison style of dancing. Often thought of as wholesome family entertainment, the Rockettes are viewed differently from other sexualized dance companies and venues, demonstrated as partially due to the strict requirements of physicality, personality, and uniformity.

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Why is it important?

This article foregrounds movement and labor studies as a methodology, and demonstrates identity making in practice. Unison movement and the creation of community bonds has larger implications which can be expanded to think how others envision themselves as part of a group due to shared commonalities of work and the desire to be "in sync." It also looks at women on stage under a public gaze and how sexual connotations are embedded or not through commercial marketing and casting.

Perspectives

As a prior Radio City Rockette and current theatre and dance scholar, I bring practice and theory together to think about how intellectual ideas actually work in the rehearsal room and in performance. The longevity of the company offers a place to critically examine the culture of popular performance. In more recent work, I am examining the ways in which whiteness was a critical component of their original identity in 1925 and how the company has slowly begun to evolve.

Adrienne Oehlers
The Ohio State University

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This page is a summary of: The Radio City Rockettes and the making of a sisterhood, Studies in Musical Theatre, December 2018, Intellect, DOI: 10.1386/smt.12.3.355_1.
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