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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Otterbein dancers travel road to Rockettes

Photo: Josh Park / Otterbein360

Becoming a Rockette was a persistent idea in Kelly Loschelder’s mind. At age 10, she did her first dance solo to “I Want to be a Rockette,” by Debbie Gravitte. A decade later, the sophomore math education major and dance minor would be that much closer to becoming what she envisioned as a child.

The Rockettes, a precision dance company, have become eponymous for their jazz, tap and kickline numbers, where the all-female ensemble kick their feet to eye level in unison in one long line across the stage. They also make annual performances for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as well as “Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”

On Feb. 10, Loschelder and Kelsey Gorman, a senior psychology and public relations major and dance minor, arrived with nerves at Civic Light Opera Academy’s Rockettes Summer Intensive audition in Pittsburgh.

At 2 p.m., the two began stretching in a long hallway cramped with girls in tan tights, high cut leotards and three-inch heels. The girls scanned the room and stared at one another, eyeing them up and down to gauge the competition. Not everyone would make it through the Rockettes Summer Intensive audition.

The audition process followed. About 80 girls piled into one room and learned classic Rockettes numbers as well as tap dances in front of the judges.

Individually, they performed before the judges, doing pirouettes, or body turns common in ballet, and a tap number.

“You just do the best and hope they see your technique,” Gorman said. “It was just hard for Kelly and me because we had never been exposed to this type of dancing, as I’m sure a lot of those girls haven’t.”

Those accepted into the Summer Intensive are further exposed to Rockettes training through the company’s dancers and choreographers. After the Intensive, dancers are not guaranteed a spot on the Rockettes.

However, the experience and training achieved through the weeklong process has become a segue into the Rockettes, as more than 50 Intensive dancers have moved on to become dancers for the company, according to

Loschelder was in Mexico on her last day of vacation, March 22, the day she received an email from the Rockettes Summer Intensive. Upon reading, she found out she was accepted into the program. While family and friends were excited for her, she felt she needed to contain her excitement upon telling Gorman.

At that time, Gorman had not received any notification that she was accepted, and both girls worried that Gorman was rejected from the program.

“I was so upset because I didn’t get an email,” Gorman said. “(Kelly) didn’t want to get excited because she didn’t want me to feel bad. I called her and screamed at her, ‘You know, you need to be happy.’”

It wasn’t until that upcoming Wednesday when Gorman received an email saying she would be in the program, too. Gorman called Loschelder, and the two were screaming through the phone.

The Summer Intensive occurs seven times over the summer at Radio City Music Hall with seven different groups of girls. Loschelder and Gorman happened to be randomly placed in the same week of July 21 through the 26.

During the week, they will be taking class every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. where they will have several jazz, tap and kickline classes. This is all to prepare for a final show on their last day.

While both girls have been dancing since they were about 3 years old, they both said the Rockettes’ technique and choreography is vastly different from anything they’ve learned before. Gorman said it’s their way or the highway.

“Your finger has to be precisely at 45 degrees or you’re not going to make it,” Gorman said. “That’s how specific it is. It’s really scary.”

Gorman and Loschelder, who practice about five hours of dancing a day, will do double that in the Intensive week. Gorman said this will be very interesting and incredibly challenging to their bodies and minds.

“There is so much to learn about the Rockettes, and this experience will really help future auditions for the Rockettes,” Loschelder said.

While Gorman has two majors, she said dance has and will be her focus in life. Being a Rockette is a goal, but Gorman said her primary goal is to teach.

In a couple years, she said she would love to pursue a Master’s degree in dance and teach at the college level. Of course, that’s after signing a four-month contract with the Rockettes if she happens to get it.

During the spring semester of her senior year, Loschelder said she will audition for the Rockettes, and with her Intensive experience behind her, she hopes to be a Rockette.

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