The Fabulous Fox Theatre changed my life.
It's true. I was eleven years old, on a field trip. I was sitting in one of those red velvet seats on the ground floor, less than 100 feet from that stage and those massive pillars and the giant elephant heads that screamed "exotic" in the Roaring '20s. The Fox had brought in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring the St. Louis-born dance troupe known as Radio City Rockettes. And that decision planted a deep-rooted dream in the heart of one very awestruck dance kid.
Yes, by the time that beautiful curtain fell on the final kickline, I knew I wanted to be a Rockette. And it wasn't, "Oh, I feel like being a professional dancer today!" My thought process was more along the lines of, "I am going to be a Radio City Rockette if it's the last thing I do." I wanted to be up there on that stage. I wanted to wear one of those costumes lined with Swarovski crystals. And dang it, I wanted to dance that precision choreography and execute those flawless kick lines that had been wowing audiences since 1925, just four years before the Fox first opened its doors to a bustling city.
That show at the Fox was the beginning of an eleven-year journey. I advanced through dance classes. I learned all about precision and kicklines on my high school dance team. The best day of my life came when I was sixteen, when I was accepted to the Radio City Rockette Summer Intensive in New York City. And the worst days were whenever I went to the doctor and was told, yet again, that I wasn't tall enough to be a Rockette.
The Rockettes are all about precision — right down to the height of the dancers. To create the illusion of uniform height, a dancer in the troupe has to be between 5' 6" and 5' 10 ½". Me? I was stuck at 5' 5 ½".
But more years passed. I went to college. I started teaching dance classes. I minored in dance. Then, by some act of God, in my sophomore year I hit 5'6". And, yes, at 21, I still wanted to be a Radio City Rockette — just as much as that little girl sitting speechless at the Fabulous Fox ten years prior.
The summer after I graduated, I got on a plane bound for New York City to audition. About 500 Rockette hopefuls wrapped around Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater hoping to stand in that kickline. Yes, 500.
And here's where you start preparing yourself for a not-so-fairytale-like ending. Today at 23, I'm an editor at the Riverfront Times, not a Rockette. Life has a way of taking you where you least expect it.
But you know what? Even though I haven't added my own kicks to that famous line (yet), I still consider those auditions to be a high point in a story that isn't over just yet. It's a story that started because one beloved movie-house-turned-theater shared — and continues to share — nationally renowned performing arts with the people of St. Louis. And when you're a little girl from the Metro East sitting there in that amazing room with the red velvet and the soaring ceiling, you can't help but understand that the arts have the power to make you laugh, cry and even change the course of your life. You can't help but vow to do anything you can to be a part of it.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a miracle.