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Pulaski girl wants to become a Rockette

PULASKI — Annalee Hunter joined her first dance studio when she was three months old, but she didn’t start dancing until she was four.
Now, at almost 16, the years of lessons and performances are paying off as she aspires to become a member of Radio City Music Hall’s famous Rockettes.
Hunter, who lives on Pleasant Hill Drive in Pulaski, was among 400 dancers from across the nation chosen to participate in a Rockette Summer Intensive training program in New York City June 20-27. Seven hundred dancers auditioned.
A member of the Southwest Virginia Ballet in Salem, Hunter tried out in New York this past February. She was asked to perform jazz and tap combinations alone and in groups of three.
According to the Radio City Music Hall web site, participants must be at least 14 years of age and have a minimum of five years training in tap, jazz and ballet. Summer Intensive auditions are held at locations across the nation, or a video audition may be submitted.
“I love jazz and tap,” she said. “You have to know (those two forms of dance) to be a Rockette.”
Although the program has been offered for seven years, this is the first time Hunter auditioned. She learned of it from her aunt, who attended the Rockette’s 75th anniversary Christmas Spectacular this past year.
“It’s an amazing experience,” she said of the week-long program held at Radio City Music Hall. “I would encourage other dancers to audition. Don’t be afraid. If you don’t make it, you don’t make it.
“If I can do it, they can too. I would love to do it again,” she added. “It was so hard I didn’t think I would be able to make it through the week, but I did.”
Participants have classes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, and they have to dance in three-inch heels.
She points out that “nothing is easy” when you’re in the Rockettes.
Members of the Rockettes taught the classes, which included lessons in Rockette jazz, tap, formations and the dance troupe’s famous kick line.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks,” she said of the kick line. When they’re in line, “they look like they’re holding onto each other, but they’re not actually touching. They’re not allowed to touch.” She explained that touching could cause a dancer to fall forward and possibly take down the whole line.
One of Hunter’s favorite parts of the intensive was getting to perform at Madison Square Gardens, Rockefeller Center and on the Radio City stage.
“It’s humongous,” she said of the stage. “It was so nerve-racking and intimidating.” She described the size of the stage as being about “the size of a large grocery store.”
“I’ve been on a lot of stages, but that one is huge!” she said.
According to the web site, the proscenium arch that frames the stage measures 60 feet high and 100 feet wide.
At the end of the week, Hunter got to perform with 25 other participants in three shows that the Rockette’s perform during their Christmas Spectacular: Wreaths, Parade of Soldiers and Reindeer.
She said the pants worn by the Rockettes in the Parade of Soldiers show are starched so much they stand on their own. Putting them on can be a real effort.
But the hardest part of that show is when the line of soldiers falls down. It takes about four months of practice to get it right.
“It takes so much abdominal strength,” she said, noting that the dancers cannot bend when they are falling.
But even the real Rockettes make mistakes sometimes. She said one of her teachers told them of a time when she fell forward while wearing a large set of antlers and wasn’t able to get up. Another dancer finally had to lift her up off the floor.
Hunter found it humorous that tourists visiting Radio City would see the Intensive students and want to take pictures of them, thinking they were real Rockettes.
While she was in New York, she also got to visit Broadway. “That inspired me even more,” she said. Although she learned that Rockettes make a “comfortable living,” she noted that they are not restricted from performing on Broadway, especially after the busy season (November through January).
Some of the other benefits of the program included getting to do mock auditions so the teachers could point out each dancer’s strengths and weaknesses. She said the two most important things to remember when auditioning is to show confidence and “always believe in yourself.”
The dancers also were encouraged to go to auditions as much as possible to make it such a routine they stop getting nervous.
Actually getting into the Rockettes isn’t easy though. “It’s very competitive, but you can do it if you work hard,” she said, noting that thousands audition for the job.
Hunter raised the money for her trip, garnering enough to also buy two pairs of dance shoes and have a little left over for other activities.
She expressed her gratitude to those who provided donations for the trip.
“The Lord blessed us,” her mother said, noting that she has a friend from New York that also let them stay in her apartment part of the week to cut back on expenses.
“We all pooled our money together and had a wonderful time,” she said.
Next year, she plans to audition for one of 20 scholarships being offered by the Intensive program sponsor Capezio (a dance products manufacturer).
Hunter, who was home schooled, is the daughter of the Rev. Karl and Beth Hunter.
The reason she entered her first dance studio at the age of three months is because her older sisters, Sarah and Katie, were members. Sarah is a dance major at Radford University.
Katie is transferring to Virginia Tech this fall from Hollins University, but she is not pursuing a dance career.
Hunter said her sisters, a cousin and her aunt accompanied her to New York for the week. While she was in classes, they toured the city.
Asked what she thought of New York, Hunter said she loved it.
Her family moved to Pulaski from Atlanta two years ago, so she is used to city living.
“She liked the hustle and bustle of New York City,” her mother said.
Hunter said she still isn’t “used to the subway thing,” which she found confusing. Even though there are subways in Atlanta, she never rode them.
But she noted that the city is actually very similar to the way it is portrayed in movies — a lot of honking horns and yelling people.
Although a hamburger meal can run anywhere from $15 to $25 in New York City, Hunter said she and her traveling companions often shared meals or they were able to find some cheaper restaurants in various “nooks and crannies.”
She said it is cheaper is Brooklyn and Queens than it is in Manhattan.
But the one place Hunter insisted they visit at least once was the Stardust Diner, where the waiters and waitresses sing to their customers and while they are working.
Many of them are aspiring performers, she said.
She and her friends also got to visit a number of stores, including H&M — a clothing store popular with teens. They saw the band, Coldplay, perform at the “Today Show,” and they were excited to see Joan Rivers and Cindy Crawford walking down the street as if they were ordinary people.
The Intensive students got to take a tour of Radio City that included areas the public normally are not taken.

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Pulaski girl wants to become a Rockette

PULASKI — Annalee Hunter joined her first dance studio when she was three months old, but she didn’t start dancing until she was four.
Now, at almost 16, the years of lessons and performances are paying off as she aspires to become a member of Radio City Music Hall’s famous Rockettes.
Hunter, who lives on Pleasant Hill Drive in Pulaski, was among 400 dancers from across the nation chosen to participate in a Rockette Summer Intensive training program in New York City June 20-27. Seven hundred dancers auditioned.
A member of the Southwest Virginia Ballet in Salem, Hunter tried out in New York this past February. She was asked to perform jazz and tap combinations alone and in groups of three.
According to the Radio City Music Hall web site, participants must be at least 14 years of age and have a minimum of five years training in tap, jazz and ballet. Summer Intensive auditions are held at locations across the nation, or a video audition may be submitted.
“I love jazz and tap,” she said. “You have to know (those two forms of dance) to be a Rockette.”
Although the program has been offered for seven years, this is the first time Hunter auditioned. She learned of it from her aunt, who attended the Rockette’s 75th anniversary Christmas Spectacular this past year.
“It’s an amazing experience,” she said of the week-long program held at Radio City Music Hall. “I would encourage other dancers to audition. Don’t be afraid. If you don’t make it, you don’t make it.
“If I can do it, they can too. I would love to do it again,” she added. “It was so hard I didn’t think I would be able to make it through the week, but I did.”
Participants have classes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, and they have to dance in three-inch heels.
She points out that “nothing is easy” when you’re in the Rockettes.
Members of the Rockettes taught the classes, which included lessons in Rockette jazz, tap, formations and the dance troupe’s famous kick line.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks,” she said of the kick line. When they’re in line, “they look like they’re holding onto each other, but they’re not actually touching. They’re not allowed to touch.” She explained that touching could cause a dancer to fall forward and possibly take down the whole line.
One of Hunter’s favorite parts of the intensive was getting to perform at Madison Square Gardens, Rockefeller Center and on the Radio City stage.
“It’s humongous,” she said of the stage. “It was so nerve-racking and intimidating.” She described the size of the stage as being about “the size of a large grocery store.”
“I’ve been on a lot of stages, but that one is huge!” she said.
According to the web site, the proscenium arch that frames the stage measures 60 feet high and 100 feet wide.
At the end of the week, Hunter got to perform with 25 other participants in three shows that the Rockette’s perform during their Christmas Spectacular: Wreaths, Parade of Soldiers and Reindeer.
She said the pants worn by the Rockettes in the Parade of Soldiers show are starched so much they stand on their own. Putting them on can be a real effort.
But the hardest part of that show is when the line of soldiers falls down. It takes about four months of practice to get it right.
“It takes so much abdominal strength,” she said, noting that the dancers cannot bend when they are falling.
But even the real Rockettes make mistakes sometimes. She said one of her teachers told them of a time when she fell forward while wearing a large set of antlers and wasn’t able to get up. Another dancer finally had to lift her up off the floor.
Hunter found it humorous that tourists visiting Radio City would see the Intensive students and want to take pictures of them, thinking they were real Rockettes.
While she was in New York, she also got to visit Broadway. “That inspired me even more,” she said. Although she learned that Rockettes make a “comfortable living,” she noted that they are not restricted from performing on Broadway, especially after the busy season (November through January).
Some of the other benefits of the program included getting to do mock auditions so the teachers could point out each dancer’s strengths and weaknesses. She said the two most important things to remember when auditioning is to show confidence and “always believe in yourself.”
The dancers also were encouraged to go to auditions as much as possible to make it such a routine they stop getting nervous.
Actually getting into the Rockettes isn’t easy though. “It’s very competitive, but you can do it if you work hard,” she said, noting that thousands audition for the job.
Hunter raised the money for her trip, garnering enough to also buy two pairs of dance shoes and have a little left over for other activities.
She expressed her gratitude to those who provided donations for the trip.
“The Lord blessed us,” her mother said, noting that she has a friend from New York that also let them stay in her apartment part of the week to cut back on expenses.
“We all pooled our money together and had a wonderful time,” she said.
Next year, she plans to audition for one of 20 scholarships being offered by the Intensive program sponsor Capezio (a dance products manufacturer).
Hunter, who was home schooled, is the daughter of the Rev. Karl and Beth Hunter.
The reason she entered her first dance studio at the age of three months is because her older sisters, Sarah and Katie, were members. Sarah is a dance major at Radford University.
Katie is transferring to Virginia Tech this fall from Hollins University, but she is not pursuing a dance career.
Hunter said her sisters, a cousin and her aunt accompanied her to New York for the week. While she was in classes, they toured the city.
Asked what she thought of New York, Hunter said she loved it.
Her family moved to Pulaski from Atlanta two years ago, so she is used to city living.
“She liked the hustle and bustle of New York City,” her mother said.
Hunter said she still isn’t “used to the subway thing,” which she found confusing. Even though there are subways in Atlanta, she never rode them.
But she noted that the city is actually very similar to the way it is portrayed in movies — a lot of honking horns and yelling people.
Although a hamburger meal can run anywhere from $15 to $25 in New York City, Hunter said she and her traveling companions often shared meals or they were able to find some cheaper restaurants in various “nooks and crannies.”
She said it is cheaper is Brooklyn and Queens than it is in Manhattan.
But the one place Hunter insisted they visit at least once was the Stardust Diner, where the waiters and waitresses sing to their customers and while they are working.
Many of them are aspiring performers, she said.
She and her friends also got to visit a number of stores, including H&M — a clothing store popular with teens. They saw the band, Coldplay, perform at the “Today Show,” and they were excited to see Joan Rivers and Cindy Crawford walking down the street as if they were ordinary people.
The Intensive students got to take a tour of Radio City that included areas the public normally are not taken.

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