A Real Kick
Our Very Own Radio City Rockette
Tiffany Billings, far left, is a principal member of the Radio City Rockettes, starring in the world-famous “Christmas Spectacular.”
Photo by Courtesy of MSG
Forget dreaming of a white Christmas. The epitome of holiday cheer, in full technicolor and ready to dazzle with new special effects, is the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall featuring the world-famous Rockettes—those superbly synchronized, high-kicking young women whose years of intensive dance studies have been rewarded with the glamour of (being the) bright lights in the big city.
The Litchfield Hills has its very own Rockette, Tiffany Billings of New Milford, a principal member of the troupe who first made the cut in 2011 as a teenager, performed for two years in regional holiday shows in Nashville, and has been a mainstay in Manhattan ever since.
“It actually gives me chills just thinking about it sometimes, when I process the words ‘I am a Radio City Rockette,’” Billings says amid rehearsals for this year’s Christmas Spectacular, running through January 1. “Just being part of this company means I’m part of history. We all become really close, so it’s like being part of a family. We all have each other’s backs.”
The big buzz this year is the new finale, “Christmas Lights,” which pairs the Rockettes with aerobatic new dance “partners”—100 airborne drones. “The finale begins at the conclusion of the Living Nativity scene with the original light of Christmas—the North Star. Fragments of light will suddenly appear as aerialists fly across the Great Stage. 100 drones, representing Christmas lights, will magically surround Santa Claus on stage, forming various shapes and patterns,” the Rockette website explains. “The Radio City Rockettes will then be revealed, as they perform new choreography.” Says Billings: “It will be a really amazing change for people who come every year to see the show.”
She’ll remain that upbeat amid the “never dark” crush of shows every day, totaling 15 to 17 a week, as the Rockettes sometimes perform four shows in one day, which leaves Billings seeking solace from “lots of ice and rest.” “I really enjoy four show days,” she said. “Radio City can hold 6,000 people, and we can actually see the audience when we’re performing. I get to see a lot of people and it’s really fun.”
Billings admits there was a lot of hard work involved in getting to this point, including spending six hours a day, six days a week in a dance studio. She began dancing at age three, trained in classical ballet, and at age 14 enrolled as the first student at Fine Line Theatre Arts in New Milford, where Broadway veterans Scott Wise and Elizabeth Parkinson were her mentors.
At 18, she saw a Rockettes audition poster—and the rest is dance history. “I immediately fell in love with the movement,” Billings says. “I don’t know where I would be without dance. I learned so many life lessons, like discipline and responsibility, and through dance I can take my mind off whatever’s happening in my life for a moment,” she says. “I find a lot of joy in dance. It’s my safe place, a release.”
Speaking of a release, this is the first year since joining the Rockettes that Billings will have Christmas day off. “I’m very excited to spend Christmas with my family all together in New Milford, and seeing my sisters and my parents,” she said, but the withdrawal isn’t too severe. “I go back every day off to see my family,” especially to spend as much time as possible with younger sister Julia, a Shepaug student, before she goes to college.