By JOHN BENSON
Special to The Gazette
A little more than 300 kicks is what professional dancer and Medina native Katie Russell averages during one performance as a Radio City Rockette in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
â€œItâ€™s a lot more difficult because we make it look so easy,â€ laughed Russell, 27, a 1999 Medina High School graduate, calling from Myrtle Beach, S.C. â€œThe audience does not realize how difficult it is. We do it all with a smile on our face because weâ€™re having fun.
â€œAll of the women in the line, including myself, we have trained our entire lives. I started dancing when I was 5 and not just going to dance one night a week. We went every single night, and we still train in the off-season. We go to dance class every day. Weâ€™re active, and we really have to work hard to make everything so precise.â€
Trained in ballet, tap and jazz as a young girl, Russell graduated from the University of Cincinnati before moving to New York City to pursue her dream. While her resume includes television commercials on AMC and HBO, dancing performances for Disney and the Backstreet Boys and various stage productions (â€œA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,â€ â€œCarousel,â€ â€œMame,â€ â€œ42nd Streetâ€ and â€œJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoatâ€) throughout the country, itâ€™s her current role as a Rockette that she can honestly say was a goal from day one.
â€œWhen I started dance, I told my mom thatâ€™s what I wanted to do when I grew up,â€ said Russell, who gives credit to her parents Laurie and Brian for their support driving her around Northeast Ohio for lessons over the years. â€œIâ€™m sure she was like, â€˜OK, sure.â€™ But every Thanks-giving Iâ€™d watch the Macyâ€™s parade and see the Rockettes perform. And then when I was 17, I went to New York City, saw the show and I told myself, â€˜Iâ€™m going to do that. Thatâ€™s my dream. Iâ€™m going to become a Rockette.â€™
â€œI worked really hard, and now Iâ€™m here. Iâ€™m honored to be part of the legend and one of the 18 women up there on that stage. Iâ€™m still amazed at times. Iâ€™m still in shock and I just love every minute of it and will never take it for granted.â€
Russell returns to Northeast Ohio with The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which appears Dec. 4 through 28 at PlayhouseSquareâ€™s State Theatre. Russell admits if there is one thing sheâ€™s learned over the past few years as a world famous Rockette, itâ€™s some folks, well, um, arenâ€™t quite sure what the show is really all about and thus miss out on what she says is a lot of fun.
â€œSome people say, â€˜Itâ€™s a bunch of pretty girls in pretty sparkly costumes that kick and smile,â€™â€ Russell said. â€œAnd itâ€™s not true at all. For example, out of all the dance stuff, this is the most strenuous job. Itâ€™s the most rewarding, but itâ€™s so demanding. You have to be so strong in your core to do those kicks.
â€œTry doing 300 kicks. And they are all eye high. Itâ€™s really just a great show for the whole entire family to see. Youâ€™ll be ready to celebrate Christmas by the time you walk out that door.â€
Benson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.