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Get to Know the New 2018 Radio City Rockettes: Maile Makaafi, Sophie Silnicki, McKenzie McGrath and Emily King

November 26th, 2018 by

JoshuaFerri Share
Get to Know the New 2018 Radio City Rockettes: Maile Maka...

Each year, young women's lifelong dreams come true as they are invited to join one of the most famous dance companies in the world, The Radio City Rockettes. BroadwayBox caught up with four young ladies (Maile Makaafi, Sophie Silnicki, McKenzie McGrath and Emily King) who all make their debut this season with the iconic Christmas Spectacular to hear from them about their audition experience, their early introductions to the Rockettes, and the best advice they received from senior Rockettes.

Maile Makaafi


1. When did you first dream of becoming a Rockette?
I saw the Radio City Rockettes for the first time when I was 13 years old.  My dance studio had the opportunity to perform as the opening act for the Christmas Spectacular while it was on tour in Glendale, Arizona, my home state. I remember watching the tech rehearsal and feeling completely captivated. The women, the glamour, the high kicks! I wanted it all.

2. What was the biggest challenge in the audition and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge in auditioning for the Rockettes was building up the courage to even go in the first place.  I've faced a lot of hurdles trying to fit in with the dance community generally. In the past, I’d been told that my height or my curly hair “pulls focus."  When I was first even considering auditioning for the Rockettes, I was concerned because I wondered how I would fit in with a company where I thought everything was based on unity. I went to a call last year where the director said, "Instead of asking 'why me', ask 'why not me?'” This stuck with me.

Shortly after, audition dates were posted for the Rockettes. This thought at the back of my head pushed me to just go for it. I trained my body and my mind so intensely in the weeks leading up to that audition, and I'm so grateful that I did. Now I get to perform alongside 80 unique women of all backgrounds to bring Christmas joy to thousands of people every night.  It’s so empowering to be among them, and to know that I’ve earned my place.

3. Who was your first phone call when you got the spot?
I received my offer on stage at the Rockettes Summer Intensive invitational week showcase, and I was lucky enough to have my mom and my boyfriend in the audience! The three of us got ice cream after the show to celebrate and we FaceTimed my dad and brothers first to share the news as a family.

4. What’s been the best advice you’ve received from a fellow Rockette about your first season?
There was one point during the rehearsal process that I started to feel completely overwhelmed.  A fellow Rockette reminded me to take a break, let the material “marinate,” and do one thing that I loved every day. As soon as I took a step back from rehearsing 24/7, everything changed. I found ways to squeeze in things that made me happy, whether it was painting my nails or calling my mom. That happiness rolled over into my mindset coming to rehearsal every day. It was so much easier for me to learn and focus. At the end of the day, I’m as much a regular person as I am a dancer, and sometimes I need to be reminded of that.

5. What excites you most about the Christmas Spectacular?
I’m excited to perform on the Great Stage! It is such an honor and I still can’t wrap my head around just how enormous the house is at Radio City. It’s unbelievable that there are 6,000 people in the audience watching us perform. Most of all, I’m excited for my family to see me in the Christmas Spectacular. It will be their first time traveling to see me dance in New York City!

6. What’s been the most surprising part of the rehearsal process?
The punctuality! Everything at Radio City starts exactly on time, to the second.  The schedule is just as precise as the choreography.

7. What’s it like to be part of such an iconic New York legacy?
You would think that joining the ranks of a New York City legacy would be very high pressure, but I’ve found it to be tremendously comforting. There is a certain expectation for the Rockettes, and it’s our job to maintain that while also keeping our work fresh and up to date. That responsibility is shared among all Rockettes, past and present. Past productions established our legacy.  Now, I get to be a part of the new traditions such as our brand-new finale number “Christmas Lights”. The new scene is a stunning example of innovation blended with tradition and features 100 Intel drones, which create various images and animations that are synchronized to music and lighting effects. 

8. What’s your favorite holiday film?
My favorite holiday film has always been Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Some argue whether it’s a Halloween or a Christmas movie, but I’ll gladly watch it for the entire holiday season.

 

Sophie Silnicki


1. When did you first dream of becoming a Rockette?
I first saw the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall with my family when I was three years old. Every Thanksgiving, I couldn't wait to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV and see the Rockettes perform. When I was 11 and 12 years old, I performed the role of Clara in the touring productions of the Christmas Spectacular. I looked up to the Rockettes so much as role models, they were so kind to me on tour and treated me just like one of them. I grew up dreaming to be Radio City Rockette one day.

2. What was the biggest challenge in the audition and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge during the audition process was to stay calm while waiting on the side for my name to be called to perform the choreography. I had to remind myself to relax, stay focused and not let the stress of the room get to me. 

3. Who was your first phone call when you got the spot?
I attended the Rockettes Summer Intensive invitational week showcase and received the job offer on stage. My mom was in the audience to hear my name called so I was fortunate enough to share that exciting moment with her. I immediately called my grandparents after that. They were all crying tears of happiness, as was I! 

4. What’s been the best advice you’ve received from a fellow Rockette about your first season?
I think the best advice I received from fellow Rockettes is that even though rehearsal time can get stressful— we rehearse for six hours a day, six days a week leading up to the show’s opening— it is important to enjoy every moment of the process and soak it all in. 

5. What excites you most about the Christmas Spectacular?
The most exciting part is dancing on the Great Stage in front of 6,000 people. It’s really a tremendous thrill and honor to be a Rockette and to bring so much joy to so many.

6. What’s been the most surprising part of the rehearsal process?
The most surprising part of the rehearsal process to me was that every Rockette, no matter if you are a veteran or brand new Rockette like myself, starts from the beginning and learns all the choreography in the same room together.

7. What’s it like to be part of such an iconic New York legacy?
It's such an honor to be a part of a line of such strong and accomplished women who have been gracing the Radio City Music Hall stage since 1933, and to spread the joy of the holiday season with people of all ages that come to see the Christmas Spectacular.

8. What’s your favorite holiday film?
It's a tie between Holiday Inn and White Christmas. I'm pretty sure I know every line to both by heart!

 

McKenzie McGrath


1. When did you first dream of becoming a Rockette?
I’ve been dreaming of becoming a Radio City Rockette for as long as I can remember. When I was three years old, I met a Rockette who had grown up dancing at my dance studio. When I was eight years old, my mom and grandmother took me to see my first Christmas Spectacular, and I fell in love with the show. From that moment on, my main goal in dance was to achieve this dream.

2. What was the biggest challenge in the audition and how did you overcome it?
It was really hard for me to stay calm under pressure. Being in a room and learning brand new choreography surrounded by so many talented dancers can get really intimidating and make you get caught up in your thoughts. I had to give myself a lot of mental pep talks to stay calm and focused.

3. Who was your first phone call when you got the spot?
I was with my mom in the kitchen when I received the call that I was offered a spot in the Christmas Spectacular. It was a very special moment because she has always supported my dream. Together, we called my dance teacher, Suzy Straub, and then we called my Dad.

4. What’s been the best advice you’ve received from a fellow Rockette about your first season?
All the Rockettes were so welcoming and always have experiences and advice to offer. My friend Sophie (who has been a Rockette for five years) told me to dance extra hard in rehearsal to build the stamina to make it through a four-show day. She also told me to enjoy every moment and to remember that even when I am exhausted, there are people in the audience seeing the Rockettes perform for the first time and that what we do is truly something special.

5. What excites you most about the Christmas Spectacular?
I have always loved all the different costumes in the Christmas Spectacular, and when I attended my first costume fitting, I was in awe about how detailed each costume truly is. It is one thing to see these amazing costumes on the Rockettes from the audience, but to stand in a mirror and look at yourself wearing the same costume design that a Rockette wore before you is unbelievable. You really feel special when you put those costumes on. It is also exciting that the entire cast and crew are so passionate about what we do.

6. What’s been the most surprising part of the rehearsal process?
The most surprising part of the rehearsal process was that all the choreography was explained in detail whether it was new for everyone or just new for the brand new Rockettes. As a new Rockette, I was really concerned that I would be playing catch up and have to figure out a lot of things for myself, but that was not the case at all. The dance captains provide us with tremendous support.

7. What’s it like to be part of such an iconic New York legacy?
I grew up idolizing the Rockettes and watching several of their performances, whether it was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Today Show or the Tony Awards. It is such an honor to now be on the other side dancing as a Rockette in the Christmas Spectacular. I know there are so many people— especially in the world of dance—that admire the Rockettes, and I am so fortunate to be a part of the legacy and to be one of the dancers that inspires young girls to keep practicing, stretching and breaking new limits.

8. What’s your favorite holiday film?
White Christmas. I’ve seen it about 100 times and used to skip through the acting to re-watch all the dancing scenes with Vera Ellen. Vera was my favorite dancer growing up and it’s really fascinating that she is from Ohio, like me, and was once a Rockette—which I did not learn until well after I wanted to be a Rockette. That said, my family and I also recycle lines from Elf all year long!

 

Emily King


1. When did you first dream of becoming a Rockette?
I first dreamed of becoming a Radio City Rockette when I was 14 years old. I saw the Christmas Spectacular in Nashville for the first time and instantly knew that being a Rockette was the job I wanted!

2. What was the biggest challenge in the audition and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge during the audition was to remain calm so I could remember the choreography. This was something I had dreamt of for so long and deep breaths were necessary!

3. Who was your first phone call when you got the spot?
My first phone call after I got the spot was my mom. She knew I had been waiting to get the call and I was lucky enough to be home in Michigan when I got it. I called her right away and got to see her shortly after!

4. What’s been the best advice you’ve received from a fellow Rockette about your first season?
The best piece of advice I received from the other Rockettes was to always remember how many lives we are touching by performing in this show. We were all once those little girls sitting in the audience with wide eyes, and that’s something I always want to remember!

5. What excites you most about the Christmas Spectacular?
What excites me most about the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes is being able to do what I love most on such a beautiful stage every single day. Dancing on the Radio City stage is the most energizing and emotional experience and there is no better feeling than performing for a 6,000-person audience!

6. What’s been the most surprising part of the rehearsal process?
The most surprising part of the rehearsal process was how supportive the environment is every step of the way. It’s incredible to be able to dance in a room full of 80 women and knowing that each one is rooting for me. As a new Rockette, that was an indescribable feeling!

7. What’s it like to be part of such an iconic New York legacy?
Being part of such an iconic New York legacy is something I am still wrapping my head around. The Radio City Rockettes have been helping people celebrate the holidays since 1933 and it is truly an honor to stand in line with such hard-working women.

8. What’s your favorite holiday film?
My favorite holiday film is without a doubt It’s a Wonderful Life.  It’s a tradition in my family to get together and watch it every Christmas Eve, so I have a very special place in my heart for it.  I look forward to watching it every year!

See Maile, Sophie, McKenzie & Emily live in 'Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes' through January 1.