The Rockettes Strive for Diversity

The world-famous Rockette Troup seeks to find diversity by revisiting Atlanta for auditions after ten years.


The infamous dance group began their debut in 1925 as the Missouri Rockettes. Founded by Russel Markert, the ladies were forbidden to tan to prevent “looking like a colored girl.” Similar to no tans, Markert implemented several rules to exclude the image of color. It wasn’t until 1987 that the first woman of color joined the organization.

*Russel Markert and the 1935 Rockette Troup* 

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Although times have modernized, the group has noticed their initial rules impacting the amount of diversity attending auditions. In an attempt to break the racial preconceptions, Atlanta auditions have been reopened. 

“Atlanta is also a place where people across the world can easily get to … we’re excited to see the Atlanta talent and see these dancers from diverse backgrounds,” Karen Keeler, a creative director of the group, explains. On top of the decision to include Atlanta in auditions, the organization has partnered with many African American studios such as Alvin Ailey in Midtown to encourage a range of ethnicities.


Samantha Berger, a Rockette of color, shares her audition experience with the Rockettes as a day with mixed feelings. The dancer continues, “to be frank,” she said, “the Rockettes didn’t look like me.”

Although initially, Berger felt out of place, after 14 seasons, she enjoys every minute with her team. 

She’s pleased with “the leaps and bounds made … in terms of diversity since then.”

*Samantha Berger in happy spirits before a performance in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular 

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The Rockettes strive for inclusion and are continuing to add diversity into their lineup of 80. Apart from the height and dance requirement, any dancer is welcome to audition in New York, Atlanta, or Chicago. Catch The Rockettes in the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular this November through January.