by Marialena Rago
A former Radio City Rockette takes a kick at Broadway as an ensemble member in the first national tour of Disney’s Aladdin.
Where are you from?
I moved around a lot while I was growing up because my dad was in the military, but I spent most of my childhood in Middletown, New Jersey, about an hour away from NYC.
What made you want to be a performer?
Music videos! Growing up, I would study Janet Jackson and Aaliyah videos and then teach myself the choreography from my basement’s VHS player. I was pretty shy then, but I realized through their videos that I could transform into someone more fearless and powerful through performance. It was an exhilarating feeling, rounding that corner at 12 or 13 years old. I also grew up really idolizing the Radio City Rockettes when I saw them perform on TV annually at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
How do you prepare for your shows?
Touring can be grueling, so self-care and maintenance is essential while on the road. I’m committed to a healthy diet and daily exercise. I vary my workouts depending on the day and how my body feels, but it’s typically earlier in the day and involves Pilates, yoga and/or cardio. Shortly before each performance, I do a series of dynamic warmup exercises and vocal warmups to get my body going again. After each show, I cool down by foam rolling, stretching, or taking an ice bath. I complement all of this by getting regular sports massages and acupuncture therapy, in addition to meditating daily to help me manage my busy schedule with more ease. I’ve been using the Headspace app lately, and it’s super helpful.
What do you love about this ensemble and being a part of ensembles in general?
I love the Aladdin tour ensemble because everyone takes care of each other in their own unique way. It’s really genuine, and it’s heartwarming to see people support one another. For me, there’s a really special bond between ensemble members because of the experience we share of being the backbone of a production. We share the responsibility of telling the story truthfully, and we bond over what it takes from each of us to fulfill that purpose.
Not only did you watch the Rockettes, but you worked at Radio City as a Rockette! How is being part of that ensemble different from being in a Broadway show/tour ensemble?
Yes, I was a Rockette for 3 years. Dancing for them was such a special moment in my life because it was a remarkably challenging, yet rewarding experience. The Rockettes are a precision dance company that focuses on creating perfectly synchronized unison amongst 36 women. It was all about coming together to create a unified picture that was bigger than us as individuals, and we really had to be in tune with each other for every single detail.
Being in a Broadway ensemble feels different because the nature of theater encourages the dancers to embrace and admire each other’s individualities more. There’s freedom to breathe and explore the movement, while still maintaining the integrity of the show.
Favorite touring moment so far?
During our run at the Cadillac Theater in Chicago, all the girls in the cast took a trip to a lake house in Wisconsin. It was so much fun, we want to go back a second time! We spent our day off in nature, playing games, cooking for each other, boating and sharing stories while the sun set. I have a lot of love for these women who are committed to maintaining positive and uplifting relationships with each other.
Favorite touring city and why?
I really enjoyed staying in Seattle. I lived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood when we played the Paramount Theater, and I had the best time exploring the city’s history and culture. I loved the various coffee shops, its arts and music scene, Pike Place Market and the Japanese Gardens the most. Elliot’s Oyster Bar is a must!
What is one thing you wish audience members knew about being part of the ensemble?
Sometimes I’m not sure they know that the ensemble is fully singing and harmonizing while dancing! It’s all happening live!