The Rockettes Races to Change Its Long, Shameful History of Excluding Black Women

Tiffany Boomer (from left), Dea’shinique Ramsey and Latarika Pierce auditioned for the Rockettes.
Photo credit: J.C. Rice (3)

Earlier this month, LaTarika Pierce auditioned for the eighth year in a row for her “dream job” — dancing with the world-famous, high-kicking Rockettes.

“I love that it brings joy to the audience,” said the 27-year-old from Orange, NJ, as she waited outside Radio City with more than 400 other wannabes from all over the world. “You can’t watch the show and not light up.”

If Pierce is finally picked, the African-American would help the Rockettes change its lily-white image — and overcome a shameful history of excluding black women.

Russell Markert, who founded the Rockettes in 1925 in St. Louis, Mo., forbid his all-white dancers to even suntan lest one of them “look like a colored girl,” he admitted decades later. It wasn’t until 1987 that the precision-dance troupe hired its first black member, Jennifer Jones.

The Rockettes, now owned by Madison Square Garden Co., has launched a broad new campaign to find women of color for its 2019 Christmas Spectacular — and beyond, spokeswomen told The Post.

“There is an awareness that there needs to be representation,” said Danelle Morgan, 33, who is black. A 13-year Rockette veteran, she is a leader of the diversity drive. “We want the line to be a reflection of all different faces and backgrounds.”

For the first time in 10 years, the Rockettes will hold “open call” auditions outside NYC, with Chicago and Atlanta tryouts scheduled in May.

Last season, the 80-member troupe — which features two casts of 36 dancers and four substitutes — included just four black women, or two per show, the company said.

Hopefuls must be at least 18 years old, between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-10 ¹/₂ inches in height, and proficient in tap, jazz and ballet. The company legally cannot ask applicants their race, but based on their “impressions,” managers counted 21 African-Americans, 18 Latinas and three Asians at the April 16 auditions.

Of the 407 women who tried out that day, 35 made it through three rounds of cuts — including five black and two Latina dancers, the company said. Pierce was among the “callbacks,” receiving a form the next day saying, “Congratulations. You’ve made it to the final round of auditions. If you’re cast, we’ll let you know.”

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SOURCE: New York Post, Susan Edelman