On Dec. 27, 1932, that consummate Jewish showman S.L. (Roxy) Rothafel, brought his "Roxyettes" to New York's Radio City.
They shared the stage that year with the Flying Wallendas, Ray Bolger and Martha Graham.
The precision dancers were an instant hit. They were renamed the Rockettes and have been kicking up their high-heeled shoes ever since. The 36-member Rockettes kick line, along with dancing teddy bears and parading wooden soldiers, will appear in Cleveland for The Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square Center from Dec. 12 - Dec. 31.
Beachwood native Susie Arons and South Euclid youngster Ali Block play offstage and onstage roles, respectively, in the spectacular.
Arons, daughter of the late Dr. Sanford Arons and Marilyn Arons, has been involved with the production for the past four years. As vice president of public relations of Radio City Entertainment at Madison Square Garden, she has had first-hand experience with the seasoned, legendary dance troupe.
"It's just amazing to work on this show and logistically get our two touring productions ready for the road each year," says the energetic Arons, the mother of two sons, Aaron and Jeremy. Along with the flagship annual show in New York, 200 Rockettes tour nine other cities across the United States during the holiday season.
To qualify as a Rockette, a woman must be vivacious, lively and between 5'5-1/2" and 5'10-1/2" tall. She must also demonstrate proficiency in tap, jazz, ballet and modern dance. To give the illusion that all the dancers are the same height, the tallest dancers are in the center, and gradually decrease in height with the shortest women at either end.
"It is considered a major honor to be a Rockette and is a great showcase for skilled dancers," says Arons.
Production of the flashy holiday show is also a tremendous undertaking, she says. It requires a cast and crew of nearly 100 people just to stage each performance.
Arons was raised in a Conservative Jewish home and her family remains active members of B'nai Jeshurun. In addition to herself, a number of Jewish people work on this show, she says.
The Rockettes perform charitable deeds in each city they visit. In Cleveland, they are appearing at a holiday luncheon at Glidden House, and part of the proceeds are being donated to Rainbow Babies and Childrens Pediatric AIDS Unit. They will also perform at The Silver Grille, where people can buy a replica of the Silver Grille cardboard stove; that money will be donated to the Salvation Army.
"When we visit each community, we like to make as many personal appearances as possible to help raise money for everything from soup kitchens to food banks," says Arons. "In Chicago, we adopted a respite center for medically fragile children."
Dancing in the role of "Clara" for a Nutcracker vignette with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for the second straight year is Ali Block, 12, daughter of Staci and Richard Block. An honor student at Laurel School, Ali has been studying ballet for four years at the Cleveland School of Dance.
"Dancing with the Rockettes is an unforgettable experience," she says. "They are such great precision dancers and are so kind to me. They act like mothers and are very supportive. I can't wait to get on stage with them and the teddy bears again this year."