MELISSA THOMAS HAS BEEN kicking up her heels as a Radio City Rockette for the past five years. After dancing at the legendary Radio City Music Hall, the Parma Heights native is now on the road with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The production visits Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center on Nov. 22. We recently talked to the University of Akron grad to find out what it’s like to be part of the world’s most famous precision dance troupe.
What does it take to become a Rockette?
You have to be between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10 1/2 inches. You also have to be 18 to audition. They’re looking for strong dancers who are proficient in ballet, tap and jazz. And we’re known for our world-famous eye-high kicks, so kicking is a big part of the audition. Actually, when you’re a Rockette, you don’t kick as high as you can — you only kick your toe to your eye. It’s a much more controlled kick, and it’s much harder than kicking as high as you can.
Once you get the job, how do you keep it?
We are known for precision, so we have to pay attention to the slightest detail — where our cheekbones are facing, where our pinkies are in line, very minute things that the average person wouldn’t think about while dancing.
Is it painful to dance in 3-inch heels?
Your calves do get a little tight, so it’s important to stretch at the end of the day. But you get used to it. I’m very comfortable in heels.
You burn a lot of calories onstage. Can you eat whatever you want?
It was calculated that we burn close to 1,000 calories in one show. Sometimes we do three or four shows in a day. When you get done and just want a snack, it won’t hurt if it’s something fried from the bar. It’s not a free-for-all, but people think that we just eat lettuce. You can’t do what we’re doing on lettuce.
Melissa Thomas dances into the Wolstein Center on Nov. 22.