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High Kicks, Big City

Featured Photo from High Kicks, Big City

Local teen’s unforgettable summer experience taught her what it takes to be a Radio City Music Hall Rockette.

Dance has been a big part of 14-year-old Christie Gelmine’s life, but this summer, she learned to dream bigger and kick higher. The Lake Mary teen took the skills she has been honing since she was a toddler far from her home to the stages of New York City, where she earned a spot in the renowned Radio City Music Hall Rockettes’ Summer Intensive program.

Since the age of three, Christie has spent many hours a week practicing dance. Her mom, Lisa, grew up studying under local legends and sisters Miriam Doktor and Valerie Weld who founded the Sanford studio where Christie currently studies.
When Christie first decided to try out for the Summer Intensive at a local audition last January, she and her mom both looked at it as a great experience in and of itself; they didn’t know what to expect, and Christie had never auditioned for anything before. So when word came in April that the Rockettes had invited Christie to join them in New York City for a week this summer, they couldn’t believe it.

“I was super excited, because it’s something she has worked so hard for,” says Lisa.

The family, including Christie’s dad, Steve, traveled to New York City a few days ahead of time in July to play tourists before the Intensive began. They knew once it started, Christie’s feet would be too worn out to traipse around the city.

Christie says she loved seeing the city at night from the Top of the Rock observatory atop Rockefeller Center and going to see Mean Girls on Broadway. But by far, she says, the Intensive was the best part of her trip – and “the best thing I have ever done.”

For six hours a day, Christie and 85 other dancers from around the country ranging in age from 14 to 25 studied with four veteran Rockettes and a Rockette director/choreographer. Christie was the youngest of all the dancers there that week.

The dancers learned Rockettes-specific choreography and technique, took classes in subjects like kickline and formation, and attended seminars on wellness and how to care for a dancer’s body and avoid injuries. Christie found out that Rockettes don’t diet and, in fact, actually have to eat more than the average woman to fuel their bodies and perform their rigorous routines.
By the end of the week, Christie and her fellow intensive students had learned parts of some of the Rockettes’ most famous routines, including The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and Sleigh Ride from the troupe’s iconic Christmas Spectacular. The students performed for their parents and guests at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts to culminate the week’s activities.

At home, Christie’s favorite style of dance is lyrical, which combines ballet and jazz and is defined by its fluidity and grace. She loves the music and the focus on making the dance her own. But the Rockettes dance in a style that relies on the utmost precision and synchronicity with other dancers – essentially the complete opposite of the lyrical style.

Christie also had to learn to dance in heels, something she had never done before. She says that learning an entirely new style of dancing made her appreciate how every style of dance is special in its own way.

“I enjoyed the precision style, and I didn’t expect to,” Christie says. “It’s very difficult, because you have so much to remember – they even tell you where to place your cheek or where your elbow can be! But it looks really great on stage.”

After returning home from New York, Christie started getting ready for her next big adventure: high school. Now that she has attended the Summer Intensive once, Christie will be able to decide if she wants to go back to the program again next year. In the meantime, she was able to use everything she learned with the Rockettes when she tried out for Seminole High School’s renowned Dazzlers dance team.

And wouldn’t you know it, this summertime Rockette is now a bona fide Dazzler, ready to kick even higher and dream even bigger.

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