Kicking Up Her Heels
For more than 75 years, the Radio City Rockettes have been a staple of the holidays for millions of people around the world. They’ve traveled across the country to perform and two million people have traveled across the world to see them each year. And for the last 10 years, Dyson Commercial Dance Professor Lauren Gaul has been a member of this precision dance troupe.Many people go on a dozen auditions and never get a call-back, but for Gaul, it was the first time that was the charm. In 2000 after graduating from college with a degree in dance, her first professional audition was for the legendary Radio City Rockettes. After competing against 500 women for two days, Gaul got her dream job.“I performed on the line as a Rockette in the New York show as well as performed on tour across the country,” she says.
But her preferred position was as a swing, a role she held for three years and required her to know every person’s part and routine and go in at a moment’s notice. “I got to see the whole other side of it—how it was all created, the staging, and how it came together,” she said.
Her favorite thing about being a Rockette? It wasn’t the popular eye-high leg kick, which Gaul says was perfected with hours and hours of practice. “The camaraderie amongst the women,” she says. “People don’t think about that part of it. I worked with the girls in the line for 10 years, traveling, touring, and working in rehearsals—some were in my wedding. That’s what I’ll miss the most.”
This year, she hangs up her costume and her super high-kicks to help students achieve their dreams as a full-time lecturer of Commercial Dance at Pace, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be leaving the Rockettes behind completely. When a friend at Rockette operations was looking for interns, Gaul had the perfect candidate. Commercial Dance and Communications double major Ashtain Rothchild, who’s also an Arts and Entertainment Management minor, had her own set of auditions with the Rockettes, and ultimately got the part: a high-level internship working in marketing and Rockette branding under senior VP of product management and brand oversight, Chris Moseley.
“Lauren’s a fantastic teacher and is also giving students opportunities outside of school and helping us professionally,” says Rothchild. “To have teachers who are still working in the industry—as Rockettes and in Chicago—makes our program really progressive. There’s no commercial dance program like Pace’s out there.”
And Gaul is also helping students become the teachers as part of a unique partnership with the New York School for the Deaf, where she is currently the coordinator of dance. This fall, Gaul and Rhonda Miller, director of Pace’s Commercial Dance Program, brought Pace students to the school in White Plains to present an abbreviated version of the students’ popular Dance Out Loud showcase and give a lecture.“It’s a great thing for both our students and the New York School for the Deaf students, and for our students to work as teachers,” says Gaul. “One of our first graduates of the Pace dance program, Ashley Williams, is now teaching there, so hopefully we can continue to partner with them to send our dance students there.”At Pace, Gaul is using her Rockettes-pertise to assist Miller with Pace’s new Commercial Dance program and make sure call-backs become even more common.
“Being a part of the Rockettes gave me a broad scope and vision of what I needed to know to help them do the same. I know how to give them the tools to get them to Broadway or to be Rockettes. That’s what we want to do. We want to tell them what we did to succeed and help them do the same,” she says.
And for some, like Ashtain Rothchild, she’s already making it happen.
“I went to my first corporate meeting the other day and was watching videos where they were showing a timeline and the history of the Rockettes. They’re showing these videos they’re going to have playing at the concession stands and I see Lauren, and I’m like ‘there’s my teacher,” Rothchild said.