Burbank dancers have earned the privilege to perform in a show with the famous high-kicking Rockettes during the Radio City Christmas Spectacular on Dec. 11 at the Nokia Theatre LA Live.
The opportunity came about after the Independence Dance Company of North Hollywood entered a contest held by the New York City Dance Alliance, a partner of Radio City Music Hall, said Amy Hutchings, co-director of the local dance company.
An audition video was submitted featuring four of the local company's senior members performing an improvisational dance, and they were among the top 20 chosen from more than 400 group entries, said Hutchings, who lives in Burbank.
"The executive director from the alliance was looking to book groups from each city to perform in the show's national tour, so we are one of the opening acts for the Los Angeles performance," she said.
There was no pre-arranged choreography. The four girls had to take a piece of music and let it dictate the movements according to how it made them feel.
Dani Ramirez, 15, was one of the four dancers in the audition video.
"We picked a song we liked, and we improvised the dancing together," said the Burroughs 10th-grader. "It took us out of our comfort zone, and it was a challenge for us, so to be picked as one of the finalists is pretty amazing."
Dani admitted she was nervous at the beginning of the video, but dancing with her friends allowed her to relax.
"And with improvising, they say the most awkward dance steps look the best," she said. "They catch the eye the most, so that's what brings the audience in because they are wondering what you are doing — or it's something they've never seen before."
There will be 24 girls representing the local company in the holiday spectacular, Hutchings said.
"They will do fantastic," she said. "They have been working really hard, and they are an amazing group of kids to work with — and they are excited. It's a big thing to put on your resume that you've danced with the Rockettes."
Show producers sent the local company a digital mix of holiday songs. The rehearsals were filmed and e-mailed back to the producers. Pictures of the costumes, which were handmade, were also e-mailed to producers.
Haven Dragomer, a fifth-grader at Emerson Elementary School, said she was honored to be dancing with the Rockettes.
"I think it's very cool," she said. "I haven't seen the Rockettes in person, but a friend showed me a film. They have beautiful faces. Each has a unique, gorgeous smile, and their legs look so strong and go up so high — at the eye level. They are just so beautiful."
Achieving the recognition for the company has had a special meaning for Hutchings, 42, who has been dancing since 3.
Born and raised in Canada, she came to the United States when her husband received a job transfer. They lived in Chicago, Indianapolis and then Burbank, where she taught dance at the Burbank School of the Ballet. She left in June to start her own dance company.
"We want to keep it a small, audition-only dance company," she said, adding that the company's eight instructors teach ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, acrobatics and salsa. "We consider ourselves a pre-professional company that prepares students for professional careers."
What makes the Rockettes experience so special for Hutchings is that the company started only six months ago.
"It's so exciting because I didn't think we would have this much traction so fast," she said.
Tickets range from $35 to $94 and are available at Ticketmaster.