THOMASVILLE -- Three weeks ago Thomasville native Emily Loftiss received a phone call she has been waiting for her entire life. It was a call from Radio City Entertainment telling Loftiss that she had achieved her life-long dream, she had been chosen to be a Rockette in the traveling show Christmas Across America.
"I always knew I would be a dancer and have always wanted to be a Rockette," said Loftiss, 24, who is 5-foot 9. "Growing up I could tell that I was going to be tall and Rockettes are 5'6" and a half to 5'11"."
She called her mother who was, at first, hesitant to believe her.
"I call my mother and the first thing she tells me is, 'are you sure' and I said, 'mom I promise you the lady just called me from Radio City Entertainment and she said, 'are you sure this wasn't just your friends playing a joke on you' and I said 'no, I made the show, I'm going to be Rockette," said Loftiss. "I was just thrilled and e-mailed and called all my friends and family. I'm so excited."
To be a Rockette requires a lot of dedication and discipline.
"Rockettes are slender, beautiful dancers," said Loftiss. "The group is known for its precision dancing. It is impressive to watch but very difficult. There are about 37 people on stage who do the exact same thing at the exact same time. If one thing is off, your eye automatically goes to it. It's the hardest job in New York. You're worked to the bone but you get paid very well for it."
The audition process can be a grueling experience.
"The tapping is very difficult because usually it is very loose but this has to be very straight and precise," she said. "It's the only audition that usually gets my nerves. Other auditions you get to show your personality a lot. In this one, they want to see your personality but also want to make sure that you fit into this line perfectly."
Another move that must be landed is the eye-high kick.
"It sounds easy but you probably do 300 in one day and it can't look labored," said Loftiss. "It has to look very easy, but after eight hours, doing those kicks tests your endurance."
This year was Loftiss' third time auditioning for a slot, but she never made the final cut until now. She said there are a lot of politics involved, including whether or not there is a slot open for her height.
"I'm just happy they needed a 5'9" girl for Nashville," she said.
There are two groups in New York City, and groups in nine other cities who perform Christmas Across America.
"Anyone who is a tall dancer in New York wants the Radio City show," she said.
Loftiss will be watched throughout the year and, if she does well, will make the 60 percent list and not have to audition next year.
Loftiss attended school in the Thomasville City School system.
"I appreciate Thomasville for being so supportive of me," she said.
Loftiss graduated from the University of Alabama where she majored in dance and choreography. Two months later, she moved to New York where she has been for the past two years. Loftiss recently moved from her apartment in Hell's Kitchen to a newer and bigger apartment 60 blocks away.
"I'm just trying to live as a professional dancer and actress," she said. "I just got my equity card which means I am eligible for Broadway. It's a big deal. I'm now in the union so I'm protected. You work so many hours a day and get paid what you should be getting paid."
The card is based on a 50-point system. Each show the dancer is involved in is worth one point and it generally takes a dancer at least a year to get one. Loftiss said she got hers a few weeks early because she did some additional work and was wanted for the show "Cats."
However, she won't be spending a lot of time in her new apartment for a while. Rehearsals for the Christmas Across America Tour begin Oct. 15 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The show runs Nov. 17 through Dec. 31 at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
"I know how much hard work it is going to be and that is the only thing I've processed," said Loftiss. "You can easily have four shows a day so your body is going to be exhausted. I'm in good shape and used to dancing a lot but this is a whole other type of dancing."
She is excited to do the show in the South because it will be easier for her friends and family to see her perform.
"Everyone knows the name of the Rockettes," said Loftiss. "They've been around for 79 years and I'm happy to be part of a legend. This is not just a gig that is six weeks long and then I move along. It's a really big deal and I am thrilled to be part of it."
She also has a plan for her future with the Rockettes.
"I would like to do the tour for one or two years and then move into the New York City cast," said Loftiss. "Maybe it will work out, maybe it won't, but that is my master plan. I would love to know that I have this job secured to come back to every year. It would be a wonderful opportunity. If it doesn't work out, I'll audition again but stay in New York as much as possible. Wherever they put me, I'll smile and be happy."
But, no matter what happens, Loftiss said she intends to keep on dancing.
"I was a very hyperactive child and I still get bored very fast and have to move," she said. "I like to move my body and I could never imagine sitting behind a desk. I think that would destroy my heart. I live an exciting life and I love it. I love that dance is part of it and the traveling to different places. I'm just proud."
She would also like to branch out to commercials and print work and is currently freelancing with agents.
Tickets for Loftiss' performances may be purchased at www.thegarden.com.
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