The Most Notable Ex-Rockettes

There are few things more associated with wholesome Americana than the Rockettes. Aside from representing a kind of old-school entertainment standard (the dance company has existed since 1925, but was inspired by older dance companies like the Tiller Girls), they've also been closely associated with Christmas since the inception of the "Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes" in 1933. You just can't get any more wholesome than dancers dressed as toy soldiers dancing alongside Santa Claus.

The Rockettes are what's known as a "precision" dance company. If you've ever seen them perform you know exactly what that means: Those insanely high kicks in unison require a lot of precision and training to attain the spectacular result. As a direct result, becoming a Rockette isn't easy: According to amNewYork you have to be an accomplished dancer proficient in jazz, tap, and ballet and you have to be between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10.5 inches tall. There's a grueling 2-day audition process—hundreds of dancers typically show up and have to quickly team up and learn group routines on the spot, with cuts after each routine. And after all that, each dancer only gets a one-season contract—and must try out again the next year.

Those high standards explain why so many Rockettes have gone on to be successful, influential women. Here's a list of the most notable ex-Rockettes.


If you think Vera-Ellen seems familiar, it's probably because she starred in a movie literally everyone has seen: The 1954 Bing Crosby classic "White Christmas." As noted by Good Housekeeping, Vera-Ellen played the younger Haynes sister despite being seven years older than Rosemary Clooney at the time—and her singing was dubbed, according to CNN.

But no one was going to dub her dancing. The New York Times reports that Vera-Ellen began dancing as a child because she was small and "frail" and wanted to build up her body. She was a professional dancer by the time she was a teenager, and became a Rockette at the age of 18—one of the youngest dancers to ever score a spot in the company. What makes her achievement even more impressive is the fact that she was technically too short for the Rockettes—Buzzfeed notes she was only 5 feet 4 inches tall, way shorter than the 5 feet 6 inches the Rockettes typically require.

Vera-Ellen had a dynamite Hollywood career. She danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in films like "Words and Music" and "The Belle of New York." She married her second husband, the fabulously wealthy Victor Rothschild, in 1954 and ended her career shortly afterward. After divorcing Rothschild in 1966, she lived the rest of her life reclusively until her death in 1981.

Suzanne Rogers

Show business is tough. Just getting your foot in the door can be a challenge, much less working steadily for nearly 60 years. But that's exactly what former Rockette Suzanne Rogers has accomplished. Soap Opera fans know that Rogers first appeared on "Days of Our Lives" as Maggie Horton in 1973—and as noted by Screen Rant that makes her the longest-serving cast member on the iconic show. Over the course of more than 48 years, Rogers has appeared in more than 3,500 episodes.

More than a decade before landing that career-defining role, however, Rogers was a successful dancer. Wide Open Country reports that Rogers left home for New York City when she was just 17 years old—and quickly became the youngest dancer to ever join the Rockettes. She spent a decade dancing in New York, appearing not only as a Rockette but also on Broadway in shows like "Follies" and "Coco."

In the early 1970s, Rogers took a chance and moved to California, where she took acting lessons—she studied with legendary acting teacher Stella Adler. According to Glamour, she auditioned for the "Days" role on a Friday and got a call from her agent on Monday informing her that she got the job—and she started work on Wednesday. She eventually won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her work on the show.

Heather Ann Bottom

Most people are lucky to achieve one incredibly challenging dream in their lives. Heather Ann Bottom isn't most people. As reported by Dance Magazine, Bottom always dreamed of being a dancer on Broadway—but she was also extremely interested in math and science. While in college studying astrophysics at Columbia University, Bottom kept auditioning as a dancer—and landed a role in the Rockettes. She went back to school when the season ended, but then landed a role in "A Chorus Line" and left school again.

Believing she had to choose one career path after graduating, Bottom pursued dancing full-time for a while, but realized she missed working on scientific projects. After a few years she enrolled at the California Institute of Technology. Her first job after graduating was at Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Today, according to Elle, this former Rockette works for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)—and was part of the team helping to put the Mars 2020 Rover on the red planet. Bottom reports that its actually not unusual to discover that many of the engineers working at places like the JPL have artistic sides as well. And she keeps up with her training, working with professionals like Johnnie Hobbs in order to keep up-to-date with what's happening in the dance world.

Lucille Bremer

Lucille Bremer was born to dance. According to The New York Times, by the age of 12 she was dancing professionally with the Philadelphia Opera Company ballet. Just a few years later she arrived in New York City and joined the legendary Rockettes while still a teenager.

Bremer wanted more. She traveled to California and completed a screen test for Warner Brothers, but according to the Albuquerque Journal a week went by without a response. When she viewed her own test she realized she'd done poorly, so she returned to New York and her dance career, appearing at the Copacabana and Versailles nightclubs according to the Los Angeles Times. That's when she got her second shot at a film career with producer Arthur Freed—and made her film debut in the all-time classic "Meet Me in St. Louis" in 1944, playing Judy Garland's older sister. She made seven more feature films and was also the cover model for Life Magazine's first color cover in 1947.

Despite finding great success as an actress and dancer, Bremer ended her career voluntarily just a few years later. She married Abelardo Louis Rodriguez, son of former Mexican President Abelardo Rodriguez. They were married for 15 years and had four children.

Maria Fletcher

Maria Fletcher had dancing in her blood. According to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, her parents, Charles Beale Fletcher and Margaret Gatley Fletcher, were a professional dance duo. The Laurel of Asheville notes that they toured the country as "Beale and Peggy Fletcher, Americas Most Versatile Dance Team." When Maria was a very young child the Fletchers founded a dance school and a local ballet company, so it's little surprise that Maria took her first dancing trophy when she was just 7 years old.

The year 1960 was an eventful one for Maria—she graduated high school, moved to New York, became a Rockette, and won the Miss Asheville pageant. Six months after that, she was named Miss North Carolina and headed for Atlantic City, New Jersey for the Miss America pageant. Naturally, for the talent section of the competition she tap danced—and maybe that Rockette energy made the difference, because she won the competition to become Miss America 1962. There's footage of the moment she was named the winner. As noted by Pageant Planet, Fletcher remains the only Miss North Carolina to win the Miss America contest.

Fletcher took her winnings and enrolled at Vanderbilt University and launched a career in business. AARP reports that she has used her fame and notoriety as an activist in support of nonprofit children's hospitals and animal rights.

Jennifer Jones

As noted by The New York Times, one legacy of the Rockettes the dance company would love to leave behind is its perception as racially exclusive. Even in the modern day, most of the dancers in the company are white. In fact, the Rockettes did not have a single Black dancer until 1987, 52 years after its founding—and according to The New York Post, Rockettes were even forbidden from getting a suntan in case they might be mistaken for a minority.

The Rockette who finally broke the Rockettes' color barrier was Jennifer Jones, who was just 19 when she joined the company. She spotted an open call for dancers to audition for the legendary dance group that included the line "ethnic minorities encouraged to attend." According to Today, Jones spent 15 years dancing with the Rockettes as well as appearing in Broadway shows. DNAinfo reports that she was one of just three Black women cast in "42nd Street" in 2001—the show went on to win a Tony Award for best musical revival. Jones founded her own dance school, and officially retired in 2002.

In 2018, Real Health reports that Jones was diagnosed with Stage III nonhereditary colon cancer. After undergoing aggressive treatment, Jones was declared cancer-free in 2019. Curiously, the Rockettes' official history does not mention Jennifer Jones once despite her significance.

Keltie Knight

When young folks move to New York City to pursue their dreams, they know the odds are against them. But Keltie Knight is one of the few who didn't just achieve her dreams, she exceeded them.

Edify reports that Knight moved from Sherwood Park, Canada to New York City right after graduating high school. According to The Void, Knight's career wasn't an instant success—she struggled to survive, dancing in clubs and working odd jobs to make ends meet. Dance Spirit reports that she spent six seasons as a Rockette, performing four or five shows a day.

That launched her career. Keltie began dancing in music videos and working with artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Kanye West, and she had small roles dancing in the films "Enchanted" and "Footloose." She began working as an interviewer and presenter for Live Nation, and TV Guide notes that in 2011 Keltie was a contestant on "The Bachelor," which helped raise her profile. She took on roles on television on shows like "The Insider" and her current full-time gig on "Entertainment Tonight."

In 2015, Keltie invaded another medium when she co-founded the popular Ladygang podcast with co-hosts Becca Tobin and Jac Vanek. According to Variety, the trio launched a TV series based on the podcast in 2018. Episodes were broadcast on E!, but according to Hollywood Life the show ended just a year later, with Knight admitting that the podcast format was difficult to transition to the screen.

Margaret E. Lynn

Margaret E. Lynn wasn't just a Rockette: according to The New York Times, she was a dance captain with the legendary company. And Margaret—known by the nickname "Skippy"—wasn't just an entertainer. Her career reached far beyond dance. After earning a Master's degree from Catholic University in speech and drama, she danced with the Rockettes, the Martha Graham Company, and in several Broadway shows including "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!"

The Los Angeles Times reports that Lynn served as an "actress technician" during World War II, helping to organize entertainment for the troops—often displaying incredible bravery by performing and directing while under artillery fire. In 1962, Lynn pushed to found the Army Music and Theater Program. The program encouraged the men and women serving in our armed forces to develop and pursue their performing talent. The program grew to be the largest music and theater production organization in the world, staging more than 25,000 performances with an audience of 2.5 million annually. Lynn continued to lead this incredible unit within the army until 1982, when she left to form her own production company, Creative Consultants. According to U.S. Army Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation, she was simultaneously named general manager of the World Showcase Festival Program for the Disney organization and helped organize the opening of Disney's famed EPCOT Center in 1982.

Amanda Kloots

In some ways, Amanda Kloots' career is fairly typical: According to Hollywood Life, she moved from her native Ohio to New York City and dance with the Rockettes while also appearing in several Broadway shows. ABC reports that after dancing professionally for 17 years, Kloots took her love for physical fitness to a fitness studio in New York City, where she began teaching classes and developing a unique jump-rope workout routine.

In 2016, Kloots launched her own fitness brand, AK!—and, as reported by Haute Living, moved to Los Angeles when her husband, Nick Codero, got an acting job. The former Rockette became known as a celebrity trainer, with clients like Kate Walsh and Aimee Song.

Just as Kloots' career was taking off, tragedy struck. As reported by Women's Health, her husband Nick contracted COVID-19 in 2020 and passed away after a three-month battle with the disease. Kloots honored her husband by pursuing the dreams they'd shared: she published a memoir with her sister, and began guest-hosting "The Talk" on CBS—a gig which turned permanent in December 2020 according to People. In 2021, Kloots appeared as a contestant on ABC's "Dancing with The Stars." ABC News reports that despite her obvious professional advantage, she ultimately came in fourth place on the show.

Cara Mund

Before Cara Mund even turned 30 years old, she had a pretty impressive resume. According to North Dakota Living, Mund graduated from Brown University with honors, served as an intern for U.S. Senator John Hoeven, and founded North Dakota's Annual Make-a-Wish Fashion Show at age 14.

According to the Rockettes official site, Mund trained with the Radio City Rockettes four years in a row during their annual Rockettes Summer Intensive. She's been dancing competitively most of her life—and also competing in pageants. In 2017, Mund was named Miss North Dakota, and USA Today reports that in 2018 she was named Miss America—the first Miss North Dakota to do so.

Mund is clearly a woman of high character, because she was willing to risk everything in the name of doing the right thing. As noted by The New York Times, Mund caused quite a controversy when she released a letter alleging that Miss America officials had engaged in what she described as "workplace bullying." Mund alleged that she had been marginalized, condescended to, and prevented from doing publicity because she wasn't as "important" as Gretchen Carlson, former Miss America, FOX News correspondent, and chairwoman of the organization's board of directors. Mund's letter had an impact—according to Press of Atlantic City, President and CEO of the Miss America Organization, Regina Hopper, resigned in early 2020.

Ashley Everett

According to New York Magazine, Ashley Everett auditioned to be a Rockette back in 2008, when she was just 19 years old. She specifically noted that part of her motivation was to bring a bit more diversity to the legendary dance company.

But Everett had already made some serious show business connections. According to the Rockettes' official site, while Everett trained at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, she met Frank Gaston, Jr.—who just so happened to be Beyoncé's choreographer. That led to Everett appearing in two music videos with Queen Bey, and eventually dropping out of the Juilliard School (per Vibe) to tour around the world with her as her dance captain—all before her 20th birthday. Then, in 2013, she appeared in a non-dancing role in Beyoncé's music video for "Heaven," playing Bey's best friend. According to Essence, Everett has also worked with other superstars like Usher and Ciara.

In 2016, Everett made headlines when her boyfriend, John Silver, proposed to her live on stage during Beyoncé's performance of "Single Ladies." It was a total surprise for Everett, and after contemplating marriage for more than a year she admitted it wasn't what she wanted, and the engagement was canceled. It hasn't slowed her down: Everett is pursuing acting opportunities, and according to Blogher co-launched phae, a line of loungewear and swimwear.

Joan McCracken

Joan McCracken may be the most influential dancer you've never heard of. According to Town and Country, McCracken began her professional dancing career at the School of American Ballet, and traveled around the world as part of the Littlefield Ballet. She danced with the Rockettes—but hated the job because of the grueling schedule involved.

After leaving the Rockettes, Heavy reports that she caught her big break when she was cast as Sylvie in the smash hit "Oklahoma!" Her success in that role led to a contract with Warner Brothers, and more film appearances, and as reported by Vanity Fair, she honed a unique approach that combined comedy and dancing and became quite famous (Truman Capote may have based the character of Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" on McCracken). She met the legendary Bob Fosse in 1949—and Fosse later acknowledged her role in his success, saying that she told him his approach was wrong and encouraged him to go back to studying dance. She then secured Fosse's first big gig as a Broadway choreographer—but had her heart broken when he began an affair with dancer Gwen Verdon.

Tragically, McCracken's Type I Diabetes began to have a negative effect on her health and career. She kept her condition a secret and self-administered insulin, but cigarette smoking and constant crash diets resulted in joint pain and heart problems. She died in 1961 at the age of 38 after a heart attack.