The winter holidays are filled with traditions — perhaps none more iconic than the annual Radio City Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular in New York City.
Since 1933, the precision dance troupe has performed at Radio City Music Hall during the weeks leading up to Christmas and one of Kansas City’s own — Mindy Moeller, a 2007 Blue Valley graduate — is among the elite dance group’s ranks.
Moeller, 28, is in her sixth season as a Rockette, one of the most coveted dance jobs in the performing world. She is the only current member of the Rockettes from this area and is one of 80 who perform in the Spectacular.
Moeller lines up stage right, ninth from the end in one of the Rockettes’ famed 36-women kick lines, which performs in 16 shows each week.
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There’s a second kick line that performs another 16 shows each week, with four understudies for each group.
Some days, the dancers do as many as four 90-minute shows, sans intermission. That’s a lot of dancing.
“We do 200 kicks per show,” said Moeller, who added that each show includes eight costume changes. She continued, “Our fastest costume changes is 72 seconds long. God bless the wardrobe department. ... It’s crazy, but its so much fun and it is only seven weeks a year.”
This year, the Rockettes will perform through Dec. 31, but work begins in October.
“We rehearse for six weeks leading up to the show, and that includes tech rehearsals, and we perform for seven weeks,” Moeller said. “It takes us about a month to put the show together and two weeks together piecing it on stage.”
Each year, the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular is a combination of old and new dance numbers.
“We have two numbers that have been in the show since 1933, which is the ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ and the ‘Living Nativity,’” Moeller said. “Fans will come year after year to see just those. We update the choreography every year and keep up with technology. This year, we have added digital technology, so you feel the show all over. There are projections that are across the entire ceiling. ... You get the feeling you are on stage with us.”
Moeller’s journey to becoming a Rockette began as a child in Overland Park, where she studied dance at the Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice. She gives Miller Marley founder, Shirley Marley, credit for setting her path to success.
“There is no way I would be where I am at,” Moeller said. “She didn’t just teach dance steps but instilled a good work ethic in me. ... She encourages her students to participate in all kinds of things at schools and she always reminded us to be humble.”
Marley is understandably proud of her former student’s accomplishments.
“When Mindy was a very young student, I knew she would be a professional dancer one day,” Marley said. “She was so talented, had a wonderful work ethic as well as a beautiful spirit.”
In addition to spending hours at the dance studio, Moeller was active in productions at her high school, where her mother Marsha Moeller is vocal music teacher, performed in Theatre in the Park and Music Theatre Kansas City.
She also was a member of Blue Valley’s varsity track team, competing in the triple jump and 1,600-meter relay.
“Track people are awesome,” Moeller said. “It was another aspect of my life and being physically active and interacting with a totally different group of people.”
After high school graduation, Moeller earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from the University of Arizona. She always knew she wanted to pursue something in the world of dance after graduation, but it wasn’t until a few years into college that joining the Rockettes became her dream job.
“The Christmas show came in 2009 to Kansas City and my mom and dad got me tickets,” Moeller said. “It was my first encounter, and after watching the show, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Moeller returned for a short while after college to Kansas City, where she worked and saved money before moving to New York City in the fall of 2011.
“I remember auditioning for the Rockettes three times before I got the job,” Moeller said. “The first time I got cut I remember calling my mom saying, ‘I am not going to make it,’ so I kept taking classes all the time to improve my technique.”
The third time was the charm for Moeller.
“I waited a gruesome three months before I got the call,” she said. “But they don’t leave a messages ... so when I finally spoke to someone and they told me, I think I skipped down Fifth Avenue for three blocks I was so happy.”
Each year, Rockettes must re-audition for a spot in the troupe. During the interim, Moeller has worked other jobs and taken lots of dance classes to stay in shape.
“We have to show we are still proficient in tap, jazz and ballet,” she said.
Last August, Moeller was asked to become one of 13 full-time Rockettes involved with off-season activities, an opportunity that left her shocked and humbled.
“I do whatever they need me to do,” Moeller said. “We do some workshopping and then there is the eight weeks of summer intensive where girls from 18 to 25 can take part in an intensive to see what it’s like to be a Rockette.”
This time of year, power naps are what keep Moeller going through a grueling performance schedule.
“It helps me recharge so during the fourth show of the day I give the same energy,” she said.
One fixture in the audience each holiday season is her proud parents, Marsha and Mickey Moeller. Her older sister, Megan, joined the holiday family reunion this year.
“It makes it really special when they all come,” said Moeller, who also has performed at the Tony Awards and numerous other places, including Washington D.C., with the Rockettes.
Being part of arguably the world’s most famous precision dance troupe remains a dream for Moeller.
“It’s such a great job,” Moeller said. “I love the women I work with, and we become a family, and it becomes your own holiday tradition.”