At 20, Brooklyn Bronson lives 'dream' with Radio City Rockettes
Twenty years old, living in the Big Apple, dancing for the world famous Radio City Rockettes, how could life be better for Portland-area raised Brooklyn Bronson?
Turns out, Bronson, who lived in Tualatin and attended dance classes in Wilsonville and Tigard and prepped at Jesuit High School, has been in a New York City state of mind for a long time.
"It has been a dream of mine to live here," said Bronson, who lives in Manhattan with her parents and sister. "I personally love it. Constantly hustle and bustle. I thrive on that energy."
And, she's a Rockette!
"At first it did not sink in. I was just in shock, because it's been a dream of mine since I was a little kid." She auditioned in spring, found out she made the Rockettes in summer and has been training and rehearsing for the upcoming "Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes" at the Radio City Music Hall at Rockefeller Center, Nov. 18-Jan. 2, 2023.
And, the Rockettes starred in a Hallmark Channel movie production, "A Holiday Spectacular," set to air Nov. 27.
"They had the premiere at Radio City and I was fortunate enough to be able to perform for that. That's when I realized, oh my God, I'm a Rockette," she said.
Bronson, one of 18 new Rockettes, joins Portland native Sydney Mesher on the Rockettes. Mesher first joined the Rockettes in 2019 and again performed with them in 2021 — the shows had to be canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mesher made the Rockettes again this year.
There have been other Rockettes from Oregon in the past, but not too many. Bronson's journey began as a toddler when she danced at Innovative Dance in Wilsonville and, later in her teenage years, attended Westside Academy Dance and Gymnastics in Tigard, training at both places under the tutelage of Carla Webber, a former Rockette from the 1970s. Bronson performed with Northwest Dance Company.
"She was the first person to tell me about the Rockettes," Bronson said of Webber. "I was fortunate enough to see them as a little kid, and I knew exactly that's what I wanted to do when I was older."
Bronson, whose family lived in Tualatin (and kept the house after moving to NYC), graduated from Jesuit in 2020 and attended Chapman University in California. Her father received the job transfer to New York City, the whole family moved east and Bronson continued her college studies online through Purdue University.
Bronson had attended some summer dance intensives with the Rockettes during her high school years, and the Rockettes Conservatory earlier this year, and then set about auditioning, which obviously went well despite the sheer number of women auditioning — 800. The funny thing is the 5-foot-5 1/2 Bronson was able to make the Rockettes because the organization had lowered the height requirement to 5-5 to 5-10 1/2.
"Barely made the cut," she said.
In fact, the Rockettes put the shorter women on the end of the dance line for their famous kicks, and Bronson happens to be right on the end, with only one person next to her. (Mesher, being 5-10 1/2, dances in the middle, for example).
"It's definitely very difficult. The girls have been supportive, making sure the rookies are okay," she said.
There are two casts of Rockettes, the Blue and Gold. Bronson and Mesher are part of the Blue cast, which will work in the early "Christmas Spectacular" shows six days a week. It is a strenuous activity to be a Rockette, given the number of performances and physical dancing, including the "eye high" (up to the eye level) and "strut" (up to waist) kicks.
"Personally for me I train all year, whether it's doing dance classes all day or pilates or yoga or any form of fitness," Bronson said. "I'm trying to stay in shape for this rigorous schedule."
The Rockettes are known for their "Parade of Wooden Soldiers" number (since 1933), and will introduce the "Dance of the Frost Fairies," an immersive and reimagined number.
Bronson also looks forward to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which features the Rockettes, and the group usually makes an appearance on "The Today Show" on NBC. (She's not sure whether she'll be part of the appearances).
Her extended family members, Webber and other friends plan to attend the "Christmas Spectacular" to see Bronson perform.
Perhaps more years with the Rockettes await, and other dance jobs in New York City could be on the horizon, but Bronson enjoys living in the moment — and what a moment it is.
"I couldn't have even imagined getting this job, let alone at 20," she said. "It's been an honor being able to be here. I'm very excited about getting this job."
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