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The Rockettes have a long history that spans several decades.
Most people who enter the Radio City Music Hall may not know that the Rockettes were a group that was formed in 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri by Russell Markert. Markert originally called the group, “The Missouri Rockets” (The Radio City Rockettes). Markert decided to create this group after he saw the John Tiller Girls who were a part of the Ziegfeld Follies in 1922. Markert thought that he would be able to put together a group comprised of leggy women who could do “complicated tap routines” and “eye-high kicks” that in his words, would “knock your socks off” (The Radio City Rockettes). Eventually, the Missouri Rockets were moved to New York to perform at the Roxy Theater, then owned by S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel, who was the theater impresario. The Missouri Rockets performed in a program at that time called Rain or Shine. There were actually three different groups of women who comprised the Missouri Rockets until Rothafel, so impressed by the women, pulled them all together and renamed them the Roxyettes.
In 1932, the Radio City Music Hall had its opening night and the Roxyettes performed for the first time on this stage; since then, there have been hundreds of performances and they have become famous. During this opening night, they were part of 17 groups who performed including such performers as the Flying Wallendas, Ray Bolger and Martha Graham (The Radio City Rockettes). In 1934, the group was “streamlined” and the Rockettes were born.
In the early years of the Rockettes all girls were white and their height had to be between 5’6” tall and 5’10” to 5’10 ½” tall. In 1985, Setseko Maruhashi became the first Asian (Japan-born) Rockette and in 1988, Jennifer Jones became the first African-American. For many years, there was controversy about hiring African-Americans because it was felt that they would “distract from the consistent
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