The Incredible Shrinking Rockette

Jennifer JilesBlog Leave a Comment

When I was a Rockette in the 1990’s, the height requirement was 5’5 ½” to 5’ 10”.  At the auditions, all of the Rockette hopefuls were measured “in stockinged feet” by the Official Measuring Stick by the door.  For some reason, I don’t remember being measured.  In any case, I believe I just filled out my audition form as 5’ 8” because at the time I was working quite a lot dancing in live corporate shows where they wanted show girls 5’ 8” and above.  I was really 5’ 7 ¾”, but I couldn’t think of a reason to quash the lie just because I was at Radio City.  After all, the Rockettes are showgirls, just really famous ones!

I paid the piper, though.  Now, this doesn’t seem like a big discrepancy:  ¼ inch.  Who cares, right?!   Well, eventually, I did.   The line up for the Rockettes starts in the middle with the tallest girls and goes in descending height order to the smallest girls on the ends.   I was fourth from center on the left, between two other tall girls:  Pam Stacey and Jennifer Jones (incidentally, the first Black Rockette—well, not incidentally to the history of the Rockettes or to Jennifer Jones, but to my story about shrinking).

After the first few weeks of rehearsal I felt this cramp in my back. You see, during the kickline, we do something called “middle of the back spacing”.  It appears that the Rockettes are touching each other’s backs, but they are not (in fact, in my day, they dare not. I got more than one earful from a few of the older more senior Rockettes about this, but again, I digress.  That’s for another blog).   The right arm goes higher behind the back of the Rockette on your right and the left arm goes behind the lower back of the girl on your left.  If everyone does that at the exact same time in the kickline without touching the other girls’ backs, all goes well.  AND it’s important that the hands behind the backs are all in the same place to keep the uniformity.  So, because I was actually shorter than I said I was, my right hand had to higher than comfortable, and I got a cramp in my back.  FOR FOUR YEARS.  Crazy.

Cut to twenty plus years later, I’m at the gyno, and I get measured.   I’m 5’ 6 ½”.  Really?!!   The nurse repeats the measurement.   5’6 ½”.  So, I’ve shrunk. An inch and a half further from my 5’8” lie, and if I was still hoofing it on the Great Stage, a much bigger cramp in my back. Why, am I shrinking??!  I ask.  My gyno tells me we all shrink.  Well, there you have it.

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