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Radio City Rockettes and Boston Conservatory team up for first-of-its kind collegiate dance course

Radio City Rockette Amarisa LeBar (front) taught a Boston Conservatory course on Rockettes Precision Dance Technique, in the Conservatory’s Hemenway Street studio on Wednesday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Amarisa LeBar stood in front of a group of about 20 dancers at the Boston Conservatory on Wednesday afternoon. She wore a red lip, and was dressed all in black, with her hair swept into a sleek bun. Across her shirt was the bejeweled giveaway of her profession: Radio City Rockette.

Every Wednesday, LeBar, 25, takes the train up from New York City to teach a first-of-its kind collegiate dance course at Boston Conservatory. The Rockettes Precision Dance Technique offers students an inside look at the world of the Radio City Rockettes.

“Students are not only learning our choreography, but the technique behind precision dance,” LeBar told the Globe ahead of Wednesday’s 1 p.m. class.


“For Rockettes, everything has a detail to it,” LeBar said. “We’re not just doing choreography, but our shoulders are on a specific angle, or our eyes are looking at a specific place, and that’s really what makes what we do so special.”

(The Rockettes also have a height requirement: Between 5 feet, 5 inches and 5 feet, 10½ inches.)

“The idea of this course is not really to necessarily become a Rockette — although I’m sure there are some people that would like to do that as well — but to actually give people a taste of what we do and how we clean a number,” said Julie Branam, director and choreographer of the Rockettes iconic “Christmas Spectacular. “It’s so much more than the dancing stuff.”

“Cleaning a number” refers to the precision given to this style of dance, such as coordinating shoulder and arm movements, and where performers direct their gaze.

Wednesday’s class opened with students lined up straight, learning a sequence from “Christmas Spectacular” at LeBar’s direction, complete with high kicks. It was hard not to clap after a few counts of eight.


Third-year Boston Conservatory student Megan Prout attended the Rockette class on Wednesday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

“When I found out the course was being offered, I was like, ‘Oh heck yeah I’m going to do this,’” said Megan Prout, a third-year student at Boston Conservatory. “As a little girl I grew up going to the Rockettes, and I always wondered what it took to achieve that level. ... Who wouldn’t want to learn from an actual Rockette?”

The course began on Jan. 25 and will continue for about 15 weeks. The first week spotlighted “pathway of the arms.”

“A lot of our movement goes elbow-wrist-hand-fingers,” Branam said, demonstrating. “We have specific ways we move the arms so we can get them out of the way quickly and they become very precise and it becomes something different.”

The second week focused on tap, and Wednesday’s class spotlighted high kicks.

Mila Thigpen, chair of the dance division at Boston Conservatory, said the partnership with the Radio City Rockettes came about because their missions aligned.

“We recognized that both of our organizations were thinking about the future of dance education and the profession in similar ways,” Thigpen said. “We both have very long histories inside the dance scene.”

Prout said the training has shifted her perspective on dance.

“The attention to detail. You’re not just putting your arm out. Just learning the precision of everything has helped me with all other types of dance,” Prout said.

The hardest part of the class?

“Standing in these heels for two hours,” Prout said.

Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.