How The Rockettes Keep From Getting Jaded During The Holidays

There's a section of choreography during the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular called the Soldier Fall, which accurately represents the level of holiday exhaustion that many of us are feeling right now. In it, the line of 36 Rockettes gets "shot" by a cannon, and then slowly, limply collapses until they're all crumpled on the floor. It's pretty on-point, no?

While you might be feeling jaded by now, the holidays are going to go on whether you like it or not. So, you might want to figure out a way to turn up and get into the spirit. And if you think you're sick of hearing Christmas music, imagine what it's like being a Rockette who dances in four shows a day, totaling in over 100 shows a season, and more than 300 kicks a show. Many Rockettes have been in the company for over a decade, so getting in the spirt of Christmas is literally their job.

Given that, we asked Rockettes Allyson Kelly, Ellen Mihalick, and Elizabeth Sousek to share their tips for surviving the holidays without getting jaded, bored, or exhausted. Fortunately, their advice is useful even if you're not performing in a Christmas Spectacular.

illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Create a ritual for yourself.

Come December, Sousek says, "You have to become a machine, not only from an athletic standpoint, [but] from a mental standpoint." So, she creates small rituals that help keep each day fresh, including putting on her makeup and doing her hair in a very specific order, foam-rolling, and listening to '90s music, like Britney Spears and the Spice Girls. "That's something fun that I look forward to," she says.
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
See the holiday through a kid's eyes.

Even though it might be your 20th Christmas, it's someone else's first Christmas ever, and it's important to remember that, Mihalick says. "It's exciting to look out in the audience and see faces, and we go backstage and talk about, Did you see that little girl in the front row?" she says. "It's always so special, and it could be their first time, and they might come back to keep experiencing the magic."
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Plan ahead.

The Rockettes start rehearsals in October, and they perform through New Year's Day — so there's not a ton of time for holiday prepping, Mihalick says. "You definitely have to stay ahead of your Christmas shopping, and be on top of things," she says. Radio City Music Hall is also a bustling neighborhood this time of year, so she says she always leaves extra time for her commute in order to dodge the shoppers and tourists.
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Use a calendar to keep track of commitments.

After every show, the Rockettes tally how many they've done, and how many they have coming up. "It's not like, Oh my god, we're almost done, it's just this little mental game — it's positive," Sousek says. If your schedule is packed with parties and travel, use this strategy to help you stay on track. It's like an advent calendar, but different.
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Celebrate after the holidays whenever you can.

Because their performance schedule is so intense, many Rockettes can't celebrate the holidays with their families on the actual days, Kelly says. "I usually celebrate with my family in early January, we'll have an after-Christmas meal and do the gifts will all my nephews," she says. "I'm lucky that I get to do that, even though it's not on Christmas." So, don't stress if you can't be with your loved ones on the actual day, just find time to be together once the madness wears off.
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Use music to get pumped for your plans.

The Rockettes hear so much Christmas music, it's basically ingrained in their brains. But they still find ways to make music part of their routine. "We like to put on a couple songs and do some abs to get pumped up. Then, during the overture when we're on stage, everyone is kind of jumping around dancing," Mihalick says. "We all clap to the beat, bring all the energy together, and just get going."
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Check yourself.

At the end of the day, many people's problems around the holidays (buying gifts, decorating your house, traveling to see family) are probably not that bad. "We can laugh at ourselves and say, Okay, this is just me being crazy, because I have the 'stress' of this amazing holiday I have to figure out how to celebrate this year," Sousek says. "Put things in perspective, focus on the present moment, and kind of back it up."
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Do something festive.

If you are feeling extra Grinchy, consider doing something unapologetically festive just to get in the spirit, Kelly says. "It’ll really brighten your day; I mean, just the second you walk into Radio City it’s just Christmas, and it just feels away from all the stress and madness that life is," she says. Lose yourself in the magic for 90 minutes, then get back to your bah humbuging.
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Surround yourself with happy people.

Sousek says that she's grateful just to be able to spend time with people she enjoys during the season. "We all have to get along, and we all do, because we share the same passion, have the same job to do, and have to lift up and support one another," she says. "That's really what makes going to work so fun." If you're forced to spend all your time with people you don't always get along with, try to get positive vibes flowing so it's more fun for everyone.
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Let go of the pressure.

Part of what keeps Mihalick going is thinking about the legacy of the Rockettes. "To be part of such a strong, iconic group is so special, and I still cry when I go on stage during the season," she says. "At the same time, that's also the hardest part, because you have to live up to the standards, power, and grace that these women embody." While you might not have the weight of the Rockette tradition on your shoulders, you might feel pressured to live up to other expectations around this time. "Hold that responsibility; it is really special, and it also is very challenging," she says.
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