How to Get Legs Like a Rockette

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

With the holiday season in full gear (and the days getting shorter and shorter), finding just a sliver of time during the day to get in a run or yoga class has become nearly impossible. But after spending just one afternoon backstage taking a dance class with the Rockettes, I feel inspired to make the time. I mean—seriously—who doesn’t want those legs? And here’s the recipe to get them:

Two Key Stretches
Rockettes Amanda Schoppe and Tracy Rexzetylo led a group of editors through a quick warmup of stretches and exercises that get the blood flowing and the heart rate up. But there were two moves the ladies absolutely swore by. First of all, to have complete control of their kicks (they have a total of 300 in each show!), their thighs need to be strong. And side lunges do just that. They also help to lengthen the muscles—keeping them open for constant changes of motion throughout a routine. To control how the kick comes down—which is surprisingly the hardest part of the kick—Schoppe and Rexzetylo practice what they call “the gas pump.” With legs hip width apart, they bend the knees and clasp the hands together. While bending and straightening the knees, they pump the arms up and down between the legs.

Tighten the Body
Then we moved on to learning two of the Rockette’s routines. During one number in the show, they dress like toy wooden soldiers. Although the dance looks like one of their easiest—they are essentially walking from one place to another—both Schoppe and Rexzetylo agree that it’s their hardest. “Because you can’t bend your knees throughout the entire number, it requires a lot of control and tightening of the muscles.” And trust me, you can feel it. For an all-over body workout, try walking around the room with your hips leading the way, the knees never bending.

Get in Your Kicks
And of course, no Rockette class would be complete without a kick line. Both dancers agreed that with flexibility, getting the kick up to eye level isn’t where the difficulty lies. It’s having the muscles to bring the leg down gracefully and in sync with the rest of the line. And with three (sometimes four!) shows a day—with 300 kicks in each—its no wonder they have the legs they do. After just a few run-throughs with the kick line I was feeling it in my thighs, calves, and everywhere else.

Practice in the Off-Season
Just like any other professional dancer, they spend their off-seasons—when they’re not rehearsing six days a week from 10-6 pm—cross training, with hot vinyasa yoga and pilates being two of the favorites.

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