Local dancer turns Radio City Rockette
by By WILLIAM WRIGHT Lifestyles Editor
Dec 23, 2012 | 802 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ROCKETTE ABIGAL GATLIN of Cleveland will be performing at this year’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
ROCKETTE ABIGAL GATLIN of Cleveland will be performing at this year’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
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Inspired by movement, driven by dreams, Rockettes rehearse six days a week, six hours a day to get ready for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. As professional athletes, the dancers are expected to perfect their challenging routines with 35 other dancers.

That means being in tip-top shape before hitting the stage. Abigail Gatlin, has been preparing her entire life for the opportunity to blend fitness, fashion and love of dance into an extraordinary dance performance that can only be realized in the stylized choreography of a Rockette. The Cleveland High School honor student began to study dance with Paula Duff Dance Studio during the summers.

She studied at Ballet Magnificat in Jackson, Miss., at North Carolina School of the Arts and the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. As a junior in high school Gatlin spent a week of training at a Rockette Summer Intensive in Houston for aspiring dancers.

Acceptance into the training program is a crucial step in becoming a Rockette. Since the inception of the Summer Intensive in 2001, less than 60 dancers have gone through the program and gone on to become world-famous Rockettes.

Gatlin’s college years were at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, a semester at Broadway Dance in New York City, and at Birmingham Southern College in Alabama. She graduated from BSC with a major in musical theater and a minor in dance. After college she began performing in regional theaters around the country and held lead roles in “Cats,” “Grease,” “Annie,” “All Night Strut” and “Dames at Sea.”

Gatlin began auditioning for the Rockettes at age 19. Her last audition was in May in New York City. In the last week of June, she received the call to join the cast as a Radio City Rockette in New York.

She said, “This has definitely been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. It’s incredible to be a part of something as iconic as the Rockettes. Everyday I’m thrilled and honored to share the stage with such strong and intelligent women. It’s an excitement I’ll never forget!

Gatlin said she considers herself blessed to have been one of the chosen few to dance with the legendary performers whose distinctive lyrical style mixes modern dance with ballet, tap and jazz to transcend musical theater — often topping off their repertoire with their signature Rockettes kick line. Between 400 to 500 women audition yearly.

Now that her daughter is a first-year Radio City Rockette, Connie Gatlin, Abigail’s mom, said, “We have learned so much about working in professional dance and theater during these last two years, but I wouldn’t want to speak for her. I can tell you that this job as a Rockette is extremely physically demanding, as well as a true commitment. I can also tell you that the first time she walked out on that stage at Radio City, dressed to rehearse, she was moved to tears.”