WCU dancers pay tribute to the “Rockettes” in NYC

Over Spring Break, a group of Western Carolina University singers and dancers traveled to New York City to perform “A Salute to Rockette History.”

The group consisted of Rockette Alumnae, the Western Carolina University Dancers, the Western Carolina University Singers and The Ziegeld Singers.

A man named Russell Markert created the original Rockettes, called The Missouri Rockets in St. Louis during 1925. They became famous for their eye-high kicks and even performed opening night at Radio City Music Hall, becoming known as the Radio City Rockettes.

Karyn Tomczak, program director of dance at WCU, was a Rockette from 1993-2000 and the producer for the New York show. With the help of Mary Six Rupert and The Ziegfeld Society, they were able to put this tribute together.

The opening number, titled “The Rockettes,” was written by the president of the Ziegfeld Society, Mark York, and was performed by The Ziegfeld Singers and WCU Singers.

“The show was basically a historical tribute,” said Tomczak.

The WCU Singers, which consisted of eight men, performed musical numbers in between the dance numbers.

A “Christmas Spectacular” section was performed in the middle of the program. The numbers consisted of the Rockette Alumnae performing “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” which was one of the oldest numbers done by the Rockettes.

The finale of the show was a tap performance to “New York, New York.”

“The performance was very familiar, but the atmosphere was different,” said Sam Gampel, a member of the WCU Dancers, when asked how the New York performance compared to their performance at WCU.

The group performed their act at WCU for $2 to help raise money and also performed at the Undergraduate Expo on Thursday, April 4.

WCU gave about $9,000 in grant money for this trip.

Grants came from the Honors College Undergraduate Research, QEP grant and Professional Development grant. Also, the School of Stage & Screen donated money along with the Dean of the Fine & Performing Arts. Finally, Bogarts, a restaurant in Sylva, hosted a 10 percent night for the group.

While in New York, students were required to take three dance classes, took a backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall and New Amsterdam Theater, and got the chance to see “Pippin” on Broadway, which WCU’s own Terrence Mann, professor of musical theater, stars in with his wife Charlotte D’Amboise, and “Kinky Boots.”

The group performed two shows on Saturday, March 30.

“Mary Six and I are trying to take the show we’ve now created to other places like public schools or in the community,” said Tomczak. “It’s to give the Alumnae something to do, and we want to celebrate that history.”

The WCU Dancers have performed in the Asheville parade for three years, the Asheville Christmas show and at Jingle Fest. When WCU performed “A Christmas Carol” radio show a few years back, the WCU Dancers were present to perform as well.