While other teams slip into the self-fulfilling mantra that "nothing ever happens around the holidays," the Radio City Rockettes are delivering. Since 1933, the dancers with the syncopated kicks have drawn millions to the "Christmas Spectacular" in the shadow of New York's glitziest fir tree. For the 80 Rockettes, the Spectacular is a six-show-a-day pinnacle to a lifetime of training. For executive producer John Bonanni, it's the fruit of a formula he and his team tend to all year.
1. Unison builds unity.
Bonanni, 54, says cliques have no place in the Spectacular culture. His 221 musicians, stagehands, actors, animal handlers, and other staff stay as tightly connected as a kick line. Says Meg Huggins, in her eighth year as a Rockette: "Nobody plays diva backstage."
2. Everyone puts in the hours.
Doing 200 shows in two months, Bonanni says, means "[having] management being physically there is of utmost importance." He or one of his deputies attends every rehearsal so problems are solved quickly.
3. Check your egos at the door.
There are plenty of great dancers, but only a few are cut out to be Rockettes. It's the difference between flash and sync. When Amanda Kloots auditioned in 2003, she knew she wanted to do exactly what Rockettes have done for decades: "I don't think you would make it in the line if you didn't," she says.
4. Those old legs have legs.
As many as 60% of the Rockettes have danced in prior seasons. Those veterans help newcomers with "Rockette style" — where to hold your hands, for example — and with keeping up their stamina. Her first year, "a dance captain would stay after rehearsals with me for an hour, two hours," says Kloots.
5. Let tradition stand (and fall).
Each January, Bonanni and his deputies review the show and add dance bits or script updates. But key sequences never change. Every show features a Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, where Santa fires a cannon and Rockettes fall like dominoes.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.