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Rockettes bring 'Christmas Spectacular' to Pittsburgh

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Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009

Success in the performing arts brings calls for encores. But it's taken four years to get the Rockettes back to Pittsburgh after they were a big hit here, not surprisingly, in 2005.

"It's definitely the same amazing show we brought before, but every year there are little changes. Everyone should come down to see if they can spot them. But there won't be a quiz," dancer Kristina Larson jokes.

The Rockettes will give 51 performances, as many as four a day on weekends, of their "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" from Thursday through Dec. 6 at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

The "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" debuted in 1933 in New York City, but not until 1994 were touring performances offered to eager fans around the country.

The touring company show is a three-month gig for Larson, from October until just into January. She teaches dance and Pilates exercise and does other dance performances the rest of the year.

"The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" is one of Larson's favorite parts of the show. It's been part of the Rockettes' Christmas celebration since 1933.

"It has so much history, and to be part of something that's not changed at all is exciting. The precision uniformity when we dance in formation is so amazing to watch. It's even more amazing to be part of," she says.

But then, perhaps "The Living Nativity" is her favorite because of the live animals -- camels, donkeys and sheep.

The "Christmas Dream" finale hits her in other ways. "I tend to cry, especially around Christmas. The finale has such a wonderful winter scene, with fog and snow falling. I get to wear crown jewels and feel like a glamorous princess. It's a wonderful dance that brings it all home. Christmas is such a wonderful season."

Giving as many as four performances a day of the nearly two-hour show would strain the endurance of any performer. Larson says that to prepare, the dancers "eat properly. And the whole rehearsal process builds up stamina. We rehearse seven hours a day, six days a week."

Erin Harold is newer to the Rockettes. A native of Stoneboro in Mercer County, Harold is a senior at Point Park University on a leave of absence to dance professionally. She turns 21 on Nov. 22.

Last season, her first with the Rockettes, was overwhelming. "It was definitely more intense than I expected," she says. "I had to learn a lot. It's challenging to be constantly required to give 100 percent. The performances were more specific than I thought they would be. The costumes and audiences were unbelievable."

Harold says she "was 3 12 or 4 when I started dancing. The first time I saw the Rockettes, I was in middle school and went up to Cleveland to see them. When I saw it, I thought that's awesome and something I would love to do. I saw the show again in Pittsburgh, and in New York City as well."

But getting into the Rockettes required persistence. She auditioned three times unsuccessfully, starting before her sophomore year began at Point Park. On her fourth try she made it through the two-day audition process.

"I know a lot of fields are very competitive, and with dancing especially, you have to keep trying," she says. "Experience the learning process. It gives you all the stuff to take in so you know what to do at the next audition. Hopefully, you'll get there at some point."

Additional Information:

'Radio City Christmas Spectacular'

With: The Rockettes

When: Today-Dec. 6

Admission: $30.50-$100.50

Where: Benedum Center, Downtown

Details: 412-456-6666



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