Rockette Experience (Part 1)

My alarm went off at 6:45 am this morning. I took my time getting ready, pinning back my bangs and packing my bag for the day. I made sure I had my heels and my tap shoes since today was the day I’d be assisting at the Rockette Experience at Radio City!

I found out I’d be working with the Rockette Experience a while back, but today was my first day! I wandered downstairs around half past and made myself some oatmeal. I looked at the clock…then looked again. Then, my heart stopped.

It was 7:30am.

I was supposed to be at Radio City at 7:45. I am still in the Bronx, an hour away by subway.  I realized too late that I’d set my alarm an hour later than I meant to. Cue panic attack. I called my supervisor and explained that I was running a little behind, but would be there as soon as I could. I called a cab service and ran down the street to the ATM. When the cab pulled up, I jumped in and said:

“Radio City! And step on it!”

Well, no…I didn’t really say that since the gentleman driving the cab didn’t speak English too well. I had to explain several times, “51st between 5th and 6th” then politely ask him to go as fast as possible. My heart was racing the entire way there. At 8:05 we turned onto 52nd street and as soon as Radio City was in sight I said, “this is fine!” paid the fare, then jumped out of the cab and sprinted down 5th avenue towards the stage entrance. I skidded to a halt at the stage door when I heard my name called.

It was the other girls who were assisting…they hadn’t even gone in yet! Thank God! No one would have to know I’d almost been late!

When my supervisor arrived later she seemed surprised to see that I’d made it, but I happily reported that it was a false alarm, and had made it in time.

For the next four hours, myself and two other BDC interns stood in the back of the rehearsal space and picked up choreography. Since it was our first day assisting, we were there mostly to observe and let the real assistants (who’d done this before) run the show. I loved learning all the choreography and relished picking up the little details. It reminded me of learning dance team choreography, where every detail is of extreme importance. Even though the steps were relatively easy, it was the precision that mattered and that’s what I tried to focus on.

We learned a jazz routine, a tap routine, and of course, a kickline. Did you know that when the Rockettes do their famous eye-high kicks they actually aren’t touching each other? It looks like they all have their hands on each others’ backs, but in reality their hands hover just inches away from the person next to them so that they don’t push on each other. Doing those kicks while holding your arms in that awkward position and trying not to touch the girls next to you is a lot harder than the Rockettes make it look!

After learning all the choreography, we took turns helping the girls, who were actually taking the workshop, through the mock audition. Two assistants would do the choreography with each group of four girls so that they had someone to watch if they forgot the choreography. Which of course, put the pressure on us not to forget!

When it wasn’t our turn, myself and the other interns agreed that even though we were only assisting, we were really nervous! There was certainly pressure to do well with a real Rockette running the mock audition. I couldn’t help but imagine myself in that room a few months from now at the real audition! Yikes!

After all the girls had their chance to perform, there was a Q&A session with our Rockette teacher. She told the girls about the importance of eating well and training. She also shared her audition experience, which was very interesting and insightful since she’s been a Rockette for 10 years!

I left the workshop feeling really good, and definitely looking forward to next week when we’ll be up front…real assistants! I was glad we had a sort of practice run this week…I was nervous enough without having to stand in the front!

Also, my sister, Michelle, and I have been having tons of fun in the city, but I’ll save that post for another day, so check back in!

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A Blog Post About A Blog Post

Yesterday while at work, I checked my email and was very confused. Why did I have so many emails from WordPress?

Now, usually, the only people to comment on my blog are my parents, which is weird because they both already know everything I write in my blog as I’ve usually told them over the phone. The blog started as a way to document my semester which makes it easy for family and friends to keep up with all the crazy stuff that I’ve been able to do while I’m here; so my average views per day, after adding a new post, are a respectable 40, most of the time.

Imagine my surprise when I checked my site stats and found that I had 400 views, and it was only 1pm. Now I was really confused; what had made my blog so popular overnight? I got my answer when I started reading the comments people had left.

“Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!”

“Congratulations on FP!”

Freshly Pressed!? Me?! But I read Freshly Pressed daily and am always awed by the quality of blog being posted there! Such interesting subject matter and eloquent authors…it was never someplace I saw my own posts being. But sure enough, I looked at the Freshly Pressed…

Bottom right! That's me! That's me!

I couldn’t contain my excitement. I got up from my “desk” (it’s a computer on a counter-top next to the microwave…but hey, I’m an intern) and told April how my story about the tree was featured on my blog site’s homepage. Her response…”No way! Did you mention Broadway Dance Center?” The woman lives and breathes PR.

All day, between projects from April, I would check my email and find more comments, likes, and subscriptions. They like me! They like me! They really like me! It was so weird to find that people I didn’t know were actually interested in my life. Someone besides my friends and family was reading my blog?! What?!

I tried to respond to all the comments and check out the blogs of everyone who “liked” or commented, but soon fell behind as everything added up. I started just refreshing my stats page and watching the numbers climb.

The only downside to being Freshly Pressed for a little blog like me is that now my stats graph, which keeps track of my views per day, looks like this:

Nice, right? Now those 40 views per day look pretty insignificant. Hopefully some of the lovely people who stopped by yesterday will check in again in the future!

Last night, before I called it a night, I was over 900 views.

When I woke up, I checked my stats and found that over night and this morning the views continued. So much so, that now over 1/3 of all the views my blog has ever had, has come from being Freshly Pressed.

Thank you, WordPress for finding my writing worthy of being on your homepage.

Thank you, WordPress Community for all the kind words you left on my blog. It was so thrilling to read what everyone had to say, especially those who commented that they enjoyed the way I told the story 🙂

And a special thanks to all the readers I had before yesterday, because you guys would read my blog before anyone told you you should 🙂

Today, my sister is coming to visit! She’ll be here in a few hours. In the meantime, anyone have any cures for a sore throat they’d like to share? I swallowed a whole tablespoon of honey last night just so I could sleep. Help would be appreciated! 🙂

Christmas Countdown: 22 days!

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Rockefeller Tree Lighting

I had been advised by several sources not to bother trying to go to the lighting of the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza. The RD of our house said that last time she tried to go, she couldn’t get within five blocks of the tree. But a friend from work told me that when he saw the tree lit, it was totally worth it. I  mean I’m living in the city! If I’m ever going to see the lighting ceremony it was this year, right? Plus, I got out of work at 4:30pm and was only about a ten minute walk from Rockefeller. Worse case scenario, I figured we’d get there, not be able to get anywhere near the tree, we’d take the train home and watch it on TV, and at least get to say we tried.

First glimpse of the tree!

Between taking a quick shower and meeting Jill for dinner, it was a little after six by the time we got even close to Rockefeller,  and the ceremony started at 7. I knew we were in trouble when we arrived at the corner of 50th and Broadway and couldn’t continue because of police barricades. We spent the next ten minutes being shuffled along the street like cattle in a terrible maze of metal guard rails that had been erected to keep us in designated areas.

At one point we passed the tree from a distance, but we were immediately shuffled along. Well, there goes plan A. We weren’t allowed to walk down the pathway that led to the tree, we were instead shuffled further down fifth avenue towards 49th street.

When we turned the corner, our bags were searched and we were directed down 49th. But before the tree was even in sight, we encountered this:

Yup, we weren't going anywhere.

I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t we just shove our way through? We still had hours until the tree was lit. With time we would’ve slowly made our way up there. I can tell you with 100% certainty that any sort of forward progress was impossible.

Plan B.

Jill and I approached an officer who was standing on the other side of the metal guards keeping everyone herded together.

“How do we get to be over there with you?”

If that’s what it took to see the tree lighting, Jill and I would work the charm.

We got advise from the first cop, who worked in the Bronx near where we lived, and Jill and I trekked back up the street. Somehow, we actually managed to get on the other side of the guard rails. I was sure we weren’t supposed to be there, but we walked as though we were and decided that if anyone asked, we were meeting a friend who worked at NBC.

Well, people did ask.  As soon as the tree was in sight a cop stopped us and asked to see our passes, which we clearly did not have. We spouted our story about meeting a friend and he directed us further down the street, away from the tree. We walked away alongside the tree and came upon a break in the guard rails where people (who were clearly VIP) were entering and standing right under the tree. Acting as if we knew what we were doing, we followed suit.

“Excuse me, ladies, can I help you?”

Busted.

Even though we tried to sweet talk our way in, the cop wouldn’t let us pass and directed us further down the street. Next plan was to try the other side of the plaza on 50th street. By the time we made our way around there, it was apparent we weren’t getting any closer. At this point, I was ready for a last ditch effort.

“Let’s just try to walk by the tree again, get a picture, head home and watch it on TV.” It was clear we weren’t going to be able to see the tree from anywhere we were allowed to be, and in an hour we could be home with popcorn watching it like the rest of the country. At least we tried.

So we tried our best to go back up the way we came so we could at least walk by the tree. After flirting with three different officers, moving metal guard rails, sneaking around, and being escorted away from the tree (oops)…we were unsuccessful. In the 30 minutes that had elapsed, security had tightened even further and we were ready to call it quits. We decided to watch five minutes of the broadcast on the big screens they had on the streets, then head home.

We watched dozens of people with VIP lanyards pass the gates that were keeping us from getting any closer to the tree. When the broadcast started, I was feeling pretty bummed.

And then, a Christmas Miracle occurred.

Who should pass by us, right through the VIP gates, but April! My boss! She turned after I called her name and I asked her how she got through, but it was clear she was just as surprised as we were that she was able to! She was quickly ushered away and I whipped out my phone to text her. I found out that the security guard who worked at BDC was able to get her in!

Is there any way we can come too? There’s only two of us! I typed back.

In two minutes, April was heading back our way with the guard from BDC. They left through the gates and signaled for us to wait. When April came back, she signaled for us to follow and we passed easily through the gates that moments before were keeping us at bay.

We marched up the street, straight to the plaza, and there it was…the tree!

We went from not seeing a darn thing, to being VIP!

For the entire two-hour show, I couldn’t believe our luck. We couldn’t see any of the performers, but I didn’t care. Some were pre-recorded anyway. But there was a huge screen we could see them with so we were able to enjoy the show just like if we were at home, only better! My favorite part was seeing the Rockettes perform and having April point out all the girls that she knew who had become Rockettes…with any luck I’ll be one of those girls someday! All the performers were great, but I was really waiting for the tree to be lit!

After two hours, the time had come! The lights around the street dimmed, the tree began to glitter with white sparkling lights, and the countdown began!

5!

4!

3!

2!

1!

I can’t even describe what it was like to see the tree light up in person, except to say that TV definitely does not do it justice. It was the perfect holiday celebration to kick off the 25 days leading up to Christmas!

After Jill and I thanked April and the BDC guard (profusely), we made our way to the D train to meet Katie, who had been watching from offices in NBC where she works! The entire train ride home we rehashed the whole story and how lucky we were. I still was in shock that we were so close to the tree. There were thousands of people there, the crowds were unbelievable. I realized that it was a perfect combination of being at the right place in the right time that got us there!

Happy start to the holidays everyone! 🙂

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My Life as an Elf

First of all, if you’ve never been to Elfyourself.com, you need to get out from under your rock and join in the Christmas fun. It’s super easy and super hysterical. Only, when you do it, don’t be lame and upload cute pictures where everyone is smiling. You want the most grotesque, embarrassing photos you can find. Also, if you are in any of the following places you will not want to Elf Yourself because it will cause uncontrollable laughter which would probably be inappropriate and/or get you in trouble.

1) Work

2) The Library

3) Class

That being said…be prepared for a long post, because it encapsulates weeks of material that I wasn’t allowed to share until now…but it’s good stuff, I swear.

So, this whole adventure starts weeks ago, when April asked me if I wanted to be a dancing elf. To which I replied, “Do you even have to ask?!”

For the next few weeks we had four rehearsals at BDC. The choreographer was Jim Cooney, who did an amazing job managing all 65 elves in one room. We learned the four-minute dance in an hour and a half on the first day and from then on it was clean, clean, clean.

The dance had five sections: hip-hop (or what was called hip hop, it wasn’t really hip-hop), Hawaiian (which was more like 60’s), disco, country, and 80’s. The game plan was to perform at the New York Stock Exchange the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. First, a group of elves would ring the closing bell, then the rest of us would take to the floor and surprise all the stock guys. In the stock exchange, there would be four groups: bell ringers, Hawaiian dancers, hip-hop dancers, and singers. Each group would have a section of the floor to do their dance. We weren’t allowed to use our music inside because all the different news stations do their broadcast from there, and they can’t have music playing in the background. Instead, the Hawaiian elves had live ukuleles, the hip-hop dancers had a beat boxer, and the singers…well they sang, duh.

Mitchell and I in our Elf Gear!

After hours of rehearsal, the big day was upon us. We went through security at the NYSE and were handed our costumes. As soon as I buttoned up that velvet costume, donned my elf hat, and slipped into my green elf shoes, I was in full character. We waited eagerly for the closing bell, then were given the green light from one of the NYSE staff to walk (running is not allowed in the stock exchange for fear of causing mass chaos) onto the floor!

I gave high fives all around and had an absolute blast performing on the floor! There were cameras everywhere; I even managed to make it onto Yahoo.com! Supposedly we were on the news as well, but as I was dancing, I didn’t see that. The elves who rang the closing bell definitely got air time, but they didn’t get to dance. As you’ll see, I did eventually get on TV…but more on that later!

Dancing outside

After the group dances on the stock exchange floor, we walked to the doors then ran out onto Wall Street! Passerby were stopped dead in their tracks as 65 elves stormed the street running, jumping, yelling, hollering, skipping, heel-clicking, kicking, and spinning. When April, who was the last one out, was in place, the music started and we broke into our full four-minute routine!

The best part was, my parents and sister were there since they were picking me up to go home for Thanksgiving, so they got to see me in all my elf-ish glory. The worst part was, after dancing for four minutes in velvet, I was a sweaty mess. The first thing I did when I got back inside was strip off that costume, only to be told we were doing the dance again.

So, still huffing and puffing, the elves ran back outside for take two! I guess the videographers just wanted more footage to choose from? And there were supposed to be people holding signs that said “Elf Yourself” that weren’t there the first time. After the second dance I was, if possible, even more disgusting, and so happy to be out of my costume, even though I did love it.

Here’s the video my sister got! It’s the country and the 80’s section. Also, you may notice I am the only elf without a partner. That is because my partner missed a rehearsal and was kicked out last minute leaving an odd number of elves. Just my luck.

Thought that was it, did ya?

Wrong-o.

After a weekend of turkey and pie, I got back to the Bronx Sunday evening. This morning, my alarm went off at 4 am, I was on the D train by 5, and heading into Double Tree Suites at 5:45am to suit up for Elf-ing Round II on Fox and Friends!

At 6:30am we were outside the studio in the cold. I was super excited to dance and super excited to not be sweaty (I’d so much rather be cold!). We filmed a couple of teasers then it was time for the real thing! The anchors came out on the plaza with us and tried to do our choreography…tried being the operative word there. Here’s some clips from the show…look for me!

I tried to keep telling him what step was next…but I don’t know how much good it did! There’s another video on Fox’s website here that I couldn’t figure out how to embed, but just click the link!

When we got back to the hotel room I had missed calls and several texts saying that people had seen me on TV! I’m famous! Sadly though, today I had to hang up my Elf costume for the year. It was a good run though. Lots of fun!

A huge round of applause to April, Jim, the dance captains, and all the elves!

This weekend the fun continues with my gig as a Rockette Assistant! Definitely really excited and nervous!

Hope everyone had as filling a Thanksgiving as I did. I know I have a lot to be thankful for!

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It’s the Holiday Season in NYC!

Such a fun-filled day! It’s my first weekend actually in the Bronx in a while (I always seem to be away visiting someone!) so I decided I wanted to do something festive!

So we went ice skating at Rockefeller! Katie, Monica, and I got up early and made our way downtown where we rented and laced up our skates. As soon as the ice was cleared after the session before us, we were off! I was a little rusty at first, but I managed not to fall the entire hour and a half we were allowed to skate!

There was a huge audience all around the rink above us, and the rink is surrounded by restaurants all with floor to ceiling windows, allowing the diners to watch the skaters. Mostly it’s probably very entertaining as there was a good amount of slipping and falling going on, but there was the occasional talented skater like the three girls at center ice who kept whipping out jumps and impressing everyone. I was content simply to glide around the ice trying to ignore the gathering crowd as it got busier later in the day.

About twenty minutes into our session the girls and I were taking a break and standing by the wall when someone glided past. I did a double-take.

“Uh…that was the girl from Gilmore Girls!”

“What?”

“Either that, or it’s her identical twin.”

Sure enough, the next time the girl made it around the rink there was no denying it…Alexis Bledel was skating at Rockefeller just inches from us! What’s more, she was hand in hand with Saorise Ronan who you’d probably recognize from The Lovely Bones. The girls were both just as pretty in real life as on TV or in the movies, and Alexis had the most ridiculously blue-green eyes I’ve ever seen!

I was really surprised that they just skated around in rented skates like everyone else! No one bothered them for pictures or autographs, which I’m sure they were grateful for. As much as I wanted to say hello or get a picture, we knew they just wanted to enjoy ice skating like everyone else. Plus I’m not sure how many people noticed who they were and I didn’t want to draw attention to them since they were obviously trying to keep a low profile. I did manage to take a couple of pictures from a distance without being too creepy…I had to prove I’d seen them!

After our double celebrity sighting, we finished out our ice skating session trying not to stare too much, while also trying not to fall. At two o’clock, we returned our skates and headed down fifth avenue.

There were so many decorations for the holidays! Every shop seemed to be coated in lights and advertising the latest greatest holiday gifts. We couldn’t help but admire some of the stunning jewelery in the windows.

Our last stop of the day was F.A.O Schwartz! The store was just as I remembered it when I went ages ago when I was younger. Loaded with toys and completely overwhelming (in a good way!). The girls and I made a pit stop in the candy section and I had to resist the urge to buy both Oreo and Peppermint Bark. I couldn’t hold strong for long though, because my will power ran out when we found the bakery stocked with cupcakes, scones, donuts, and muffins from Crumbs bakery. We simply had to get a cupcake so each of us got Red Velvet which was amazing.

After devouring our cupcakes we burned off some calories on The Big Piano on the second floor!We did look a little silly since we were definitely the only ones over the age of eight playing on the piano, but it was totally worth it! Did you know you can buy your own Big Piano for like $2,500? How awesome would that be to have in your house!?

After our holiday festivities, Katie and I had to get back to the house to do some grocery shopping! Every other Sunday someone in the house cooks dinner for everyone else and this week Katie and I were taking on the challenge. I have to give credit to my Aunt Marisa for her amazing lasagna recipe she gave me! I only had to make one modification which was to make only half the lasagna with  meat sauce, and the other half with sauce and green peppers for our house vegetarians.

I also must say that I was inspired by Katherine, my friend in Italy who recently posted a cooking video on her blog here! So, Katie and I decided to document our efforts, and here they are for you to enjoy!

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Dear Woman on the D Train

Dear Woman on the D Train,

I don’t know if you noticed me today, but I rode the D train with you from 59th to your stop on Tremont Ave. I was the one standing in the middle of the car, reading Sea Glass, but I doubt you noticed.

But that’s alright, I mean I didn’t notice you either at first. You were seated, I was busy trying to hook the pole with my elbow (don’t want to put my hands on it…flu season and all) while keeping my nose in my book. I registered in the back of my mind that I had trod on something crunchy but I didn’t think much of it.

We passed 145th, no issues. At 125th you got a little nervous. Looked like you weren’t sure if 125th was your stop? You stood up, and I took your seat (I did take two dance classes today so sitting was a relief). You second guessed yourself however, and re-seated yourself next to me.

It was then that my nostrils began to twitch and little warning bells went off in my head. I pulled my eyes away from the pages of Anita Shreve’s fine literature and took in a terrible sight.

A bag of peanuts. Your long finger-nailed hands digging in the bag stirring up a little cloud of peanut-y dust. With horror I realized what the crunching beneath my feet had been. My eyes drifted downward and confirmed my fear…the train was positively littered with peanut shells.

Your peanut shells.

Gross, yes. You are not at a baseball game.

Beyond that is the fact that I happen to be deathly allergic to nuts of all forms, including peanuts. My throat wanted to close up just looking at the mess surrounding me. My survival instincts were telling me to run as far as I could from you and your salty peanut fingers, but there was no where to run! The train was full to the brim making mobility all but impossible.

I suffered through the rest of the ride until Tremont Ave, hiding behind my book and probably pushing into the person to my left a little too much for their comfort, but given the choice between getting a little up close and personal and a trip to the emergency room, I’ll take making new friends. Even after you made your departure the peanut smell lingered and the shells were scattered around my feet to remind me of the looming danger.

At my stop I quickly exited the train. It wasn’t until I took a deep inhale of the air in the station (which is pretty damp and gross to tell the truth) that I realized I’d been hardly breathing for fear of slipping into anaphylactic shock.

So, Woman on the D Train, next time you feel the need to bring your salty snack aboard the train with you, please be considerate. I can say with 97.6% certainty that I am not the only person in New York City with an allergy to peanuts and though we are in the minority, we would greatly appreciate it if you enjoyed your snack without endangering our lives. Maybe bring a second bag for your shells? That would be lovely, thanks.

Even besides that, common courtesy! The D train may not be exactly spic and span but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to make it worse!

Anyway, Woman on the D Train, I wish I could say it was a pleasure sharing a ride with you, but seeing as I feared for my life a good majority of our time together, that would be a lie.

Needing a bath of hand-sanitizer,

Meredith

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Werkkkk

Sheryl Murkami’s class is fierce. I’ve taken it a few times now…so I’m starting to get the hang of her style. Today we brought back the first ever routine I did with her, to Maniac by Girlicious. The choreography came back fairly easily and I was able to really focus on the intensity that Sheryl was looking for.

When we split up into groups, I noticed Sheryl watching me doing the choreography.

“Work it, purple! YES!”

Purple? What…wait…I was wearing purple! In a class of well over 50 people, I couldn’t believe I’d been noticed! Now, as we all remember, I don’t usually respond well when singled out. I tend to forget whatever I’m doing and revert to stumbling around aimlessly for the remainder of the choreography.

Miraculously though, I did not flounder. I kept my head even with Sheryl  standing right in front of me, shouting encouragement, and managed not only to finish the choreography, but to do it well enough to earn a smile and another “YES!” at the end.

The fun wasn’t over yet though, at the end of class Sheryl usually picks out a few dancers she thinks did well to do the choreography in front of the class.

I was one of them!

Sheryl picked out me and two other girls and set us up in the middle of the room. The entire rest of the class sat with their backs to the mirror and Sheryl aimed her camera at us as the music started again. No pressure or anything!

But again, somehow, I managed to remember all the choreography and actually do it well! I was so elated I barely managed to tell Mitchell after class that “sherylpulledmeouttodoherchoreographyattheendofclass!” He pretty much summed it up with, “Werkkkkk!”

I’d never been pulled out to do choreography in a class at BDC before today, so I’d say this was a big step in the right direction! The video will hopefully be posted soon, at which point I’ll put up a link to it on here. Stay tuned!

Even after Sheryl’s class my awesome day wasn’t over. Some of the girls in the house went out to dinner for one of the girl’s 21st birthday! We went to Josie’s which was so delicious and to Pinkberry for dessert. I fell in love with Pinkberry…a frozen treat that’s actually not going to undo all the dancing I did all day? Sign me up.

My night out with the girls was wrapped up with a long ride on the subway back to the Bronx.

Time for some sleep so I can werkkk tomorrow!

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