Rockin’……with the Rockettes

Two Camas girls and their dance teacher perform in opening act of show

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Liberty Middle School students Ellie Cook (right) and Kelsie Ackerman pose with one of the Rockettes at a meet-and-greet on Christmas Eve.

When 12-year-olds Kelsie Ackerman and Ellie Cook first found out they’d been chosen to dance in the opening act of the Rockettes show, they were thrilled.

“I was really, really excited,” Ackerman said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

Added Cook, “I was so happy and so excited about it.”

And they weren’t alone. Their dance instructor, Jen Filson, of Virtuosity Dance Studio, where both take classes, auditioned and was chosen as well.

“I always wanted to be a Rockette when I was younger, but I’m too tall,” she said. “I was so excited when we were chosen.”

The three performed in the opening act of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland Sunday, Dec. 26.

Ackerman and Cook are students at Liberty Middle School in Camas. Filson has been teaching at Virtuosity since September and is a professional choreographer and dancer.

The three prepared for the show by rehearsing two to four hours every Sunday for two months beforehand.

“I’m super busy and didn’t know if I could fit something else in, but I made the time for this,” Filson said. “I really liked learning the Broadway musical theater technique, because I’ve done jazz my whole life.”

The Rockettes are a precision dance company performing out of the Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York City. During the Christmas season, they perform five shows a day, seven days a week.

One of their best-known routines is an eye-high leg kick in perfect unison in a chorus line, which they include at the end of every performance.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is performed annually at Radio City Music Hall and in numerous other North American cities by a touring company of Rockettes.

It is one of the most-watched live shows in the United States, with more than 2 million viewers per year. The Rockettes perform annually at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit.

The NBC Rockefeller Center Tree-Lighting Ceremony also traditionally includes a performance by the dance troupe.

Ackerman and Cook really enjoyed interacting with the Rockettes at a meet-and-greet on Christmas Eve.

“It was amazing ” Ackerman said.

Cook’s favorite part of the event was meeting one of the Rockettes and peppering her with questions.

“She told us all about a seven minute tap (dance) routine she had to do,” Cook said. “It was really exciting.”

And were either of the girls nervous before performing on stage at the Rose Garden?

“No,” Ackerman said. “I was just excited. It was amazing and really cool to dance on the Rockettes stage at the Rose Garden of front of thousands of people.”

Cook agreed.

“Before the performance, I was so excited,” she said. “I was almost screaming with excitement.”

In addition to meeting the Rockettes, both girls and their dance instructor enjoyed learning the routine and meeting new people.

“It was neat to be up on stage and to get to know everyone,” Cook said.

“It was really amazing,” Ackerman said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Added Filson, “I really liked learning the technique and enjoyed meeting all the performers, who were anywhere from 5 to 58 years old. It was really nice to have the experience with my students, too.”