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Bon Appetit featured Maile Makaafi in "How Rockette Maile Makaafi Gets Through the Kicks, Costume Changes, and Four Shows in a Day"

12/20/2019

Bon Appetit featured Maile Makaafi in "How Rockette Maile Makaafi Gets Through the Kicks, Costume Changes, and Four Shows in a Day"

Maile Makaafi’s job hinges on high kicks. The 22-year-old is in her second year dancing with the Radio City Rockettes—the iconic armada of statuesque women whose seasonal Christmas Spectacular has topped New York City tourists’ to-do lists since 1932.

Makaafi was born in Hawaii and grew up in Arizona, where she first saw the Rockettes perform on tour. “I totally fell in love,” she says with a laugh. “It was special to see tall women in particular doing something so powerful together—I hit a growth spurt in 7th grade and at thirteen I was already a giant!” She moved to New York to study dance at Pace University in 2015, and two years ago, a professor encouraged her to skip class to attend the annual Rockettes audition. She made the cut and spent her senior year writing her honors thesis backstage.

Technically being a Rockette is a seasonal gig: A grueling six weeks of rehearsals starts in October, and performances begin in November and run through the new year. Each show, the six-thousand-seat hall is filled with the promise of kick lines, lifesize toy soldiers, and Santa—while, backstage, a cast of 36 dancers flies through quick-changes and steals power naps between performances, which can climb to four per day.

“The work we do here is really athletic, though I think from the audience it doesn’t read that way—because half of our job is making it look easy,” she says. “We’re doing up to 200 kicks in a show, on top of all the other precision choreography.” Here’s how Makaafi gets through a day of performances, from practicing mindfulness backstage to perfecting the signature Rockette French twist.

Read the full Bon Appetit article.

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Press Release: Where Does Radio City Find Talent for its Iconic Rockettes? Pace University’s School of Performing Arts

12/14/2018

Press Release: Where Does Radio City Find Talent for its Iconic Rockettes? Pace University’s School of Performing Arts

Seven students and alumnae from Pace made the cut for this year’s Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall

Seven Pace University students and alumni continued a tradition, taking the stage at Radio City Music Hall this season for the 2018 Christmas Spectacular. With support and training from Pace, each had a unique journey to starring in one of the country’s best known holiday shows.

Pace student Maile Makaafifirst saw the Rockettes perform as a thirteen years old when the Christmas Spectacular tour stopped in Arizona. “The first time I saw those famous eye-high kicks, I knew I had to become a part of the magic,” said Makaafi. “Fast forward eight years later, and I’m living my dream onstage at Radio City Music Hall, dancing and kicking with the strongest women I’ve ever known. It’s a truly magical experience.” 

Makaaficomes from Polynesia and, following her training at Pace, says she hopes to support other Pacific Islanders in pursuing careers in the arts. “Through my career, I hope to inspire other islanders that through hard work, dedication and dreaming big, anything is possible.”

Pace alumna Elizabeth DuPont said she auditioned for the Rockettes Summer Intensive, and was selected to be an assistant. “It was so cool because I was able to experience what it was like to actually jump into some of the dancers’ places on the spot without much notice,” said DuPont. After working as a summer assistant, DuPont went on to audition three times before striking gold. “Then I received the call that changed my life,” she said.

Pace alumna Kathleen Laituri credited Pace for preparing her for the professional performing arts world. “I feel I am ready to tackle the professional dance world based on the tools and skills that Pace helped me to fine tune,” said Laituri. “Being a Radio City Rockette was something that I never imagined I could do. Professor Lauren Gaul, a former Rockette, really helped me discover my capabilities. Through her jazz class, I really found a love for precision dance technique and my confidence grew every day. In addition to being my mentor, Lauren is also a very important role model to me. I admire her drive and work ethic, and I have learned so much from her. Currently as a Rockette, I perform the work with her training in mind and I try to make her proud every day.”

Pace student Emily King says she hopes to inspire people to pursue their dreams. “I was once the young, wide-eyed little girl in the audience, and I hope to demonstrate that anything is possible if you are willing to work for it,” said King.

DuPont said Pace’s performing arts program has provided a great introduction to her career. “To me, dance has a way of freeing your mind,” said DuPont. “It also teaches a sense of respect for not only yourself, but also your instructors and peers. Now as a Rockette in the Christmas Spectacular, my dancing is important because I am spreading joy and Christmas cheer to 6,000 people every single show. It is such a wonderful feeling to know that you have impacted someone’s day with your dancing.”

Pace students Brandon Maxwell,Julia Spizzichini,and alumnus Kevin Murakami are also starring in the Christmas Spectacular this year. Read the full story on our website.

The Rockettes were founded in 1925 and have been performing in New York City since 1932. The 2018 show runs from November 9 until January 1. For more on the world famous dance company, visit: https://www.rockettes.com/.

About Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

Pace University’s liberal arts college, Dyson College offers more than 50 programs, spanning the arts and humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and pre-professional programs (including pre-medicine, pre-veterinary, and pre-law), as well as numerous courses that fulfill core curriculum requirements. The College offers access to numerous opportunities for internships, cooperative education and other hands-on learning experiences that complement in-class learning in preparing graduates for career and graduate/professional education choices.

About Pace University 

Since 1906, Pace has educated thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in Lower Manhattan and Westchester County, NY, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Professions, School of Education, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. A 2017 study by the Equality of Opportunity Project finds that Pace graduates are out-earning their parents and peers, bucking a nationwide trend for millennials. www.pace.edu