by: Nadia Kolda
During the month of January, we want to encourage you to identify goals and dreams for your life. They can be big dreams or small ones – it doesn’t really matter. This week, we want to challenge you to Dare to Dream even if it seems unattainable or is tough or means a lot of work. Some dreams take sweat and determination, but they are worth it! Take a look at Nadia’s story and how persistence and hard work landed her in the middle of a lifelong dream!
I grew up dancing at a small studio in Westerville, Ohio beginning when I was four. Even at a young age, I loved every aspect of dancing – the costumes, performance, music, everything. I had a dance teacher whom I admired immensely and I remember her telling me stories about her trips to New York City to audition to become a Radio City Rockette. I had seen the Rockettes perform on TV at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and when I watched their Christmas Spectacular performances, I was amazed. I was so impressed with the Rockettes precision and technique. They were such a strong group of glamourous women dancing on the most beautiful stage in the world – the Great Stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. After watching the show, I decided that I was going to do whatever it takes to become a Radio City Rockette.
In 2012, I found out that the Rockettes were hosting a master class in St. Louis, Missouri as a part of their dance education program for the Christmas Spectacular. I begged my parents to take me and before I knew it, we were headed to St. Louis. I loved every second of the class! We learned three numbers from the Christmas Spectacular, including “The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” which has been in the show since 1933. It was profoundly special that I got to dance with the Radio City Rockettes in St. Louis because the dance troupe actually originated there! The “Missouri Rockets” began performing in St. Louis in 1925 before moving to NYC to become the “Radio City Rockettes.” That was the first time I had trained with the Rockettes and I remember telling my parents afterwards that there was nothing I wanted more than to become a Radio City Rockette.
After the master class, I found out that the Rockettes also host a dance training program in New York City each summer where aspiring dancers can train in the Rockettes precision style. I auditioned for the Rockettes Summer Intensive (also known as RSI) and I was chosen for their invitational week! That week of the intensive is by invite only with only eighty girls accepted nationwide, so I was extremely grateful that I was chosen to attend. I learned so much from their program and I found out that there’s a lot of effort that goes into making their dancing look so effortless. Attending the intensive made me love the Rockettes and everything they stand for even more. They are the epitome of hard work, athleticism, teamwork, and glamour. The Rockettes Summer Intensive has resulted in dozens of students getting hired as Rockettes over the years, so I knew it was the perfect way to prepare for the Christmas Spectacular auditions. I attended the invitational week every year from 2013 to 2017 and started auditioning for the Christmas Spectacular in 2013.
I soon found out that auditioning to be a Radio City Rockette is no easy task. Each year they hold auditions in New York City for dancers who dream of becoming Rockettes. There are typically more than 500 women in a line that wraps around Radio City Music Hall, waiting for their chance to dance for the judges .The audition doesn’t start until 10:00 AM, but when I would arrive by 7:00 AM, there were already plenty of girls lined up. You wait outside, rain or shine, until you are called in to get your audition number, then wait to go into the audition room. Once there, you learn a short dance combination and perform in groups of three in front of the judges. There are multiple cuts made during the rounds, which span two days of auditions. The audition process is intense! I auditioned multiple times over a few years before booking the job. It was hard not to be discouraged when I was cut from the auditions, but it made me realize that my dream was bigger than my disappointment. Every time I didn’t get cast from an audition, I took that “no” as an opportunity to work harder, get stronger, and come back with an even better audition the next year. I increased my dance training, added in strength and stamina training, and made sure to fuel my body with healthy food. I would go to my dance studio on my own multiple times a week to practice every routine I had learned from the Rockettes and to work on notes they had given me at the summer intensives.
After my seventh audition, I received the best news onstage at the end of the Rockettes Summer Intensive invitational week that year – I was hired to be a Radio City Rockette! I can’t even describe the emotions I felt when they told me I would be joining the Rockettes this Christmas season. I was crying, shaking, and smiling, all at the same time. All of the girls at the intensive ran up and gave me a hug and I was so thankful to have all of my RSI friends by my side to experience that moment with me. I was one of three girls who were hired at the end of our RSI showcase.
I moved to New York City at the end of September and started rehearsals shortly after. The rehearsal process for the Christmas Spectacular is intense. Leading up to the opening, we rehearsed for six hours a day, six days a week, for six weeks. Every ounce of sweat, every blister and bruise, and all the hours at my dance studio were worth it. As one Rockette told me, the best way to approach this job is to be patient, positive, and persistent, and I think that can be applied to every aspect of life. You can achieve anything you set your mind to as long as you’re willing to work hard and not give up.