Passion + Preparation = Rockette Fuel
The highly competitive Rockettes’ audition in New York City attracted 600 dancers. After eight rounds of auditions held over two days, their number was whittled down to 32. The youngest dancer there, 19-year-old Kansas native Stevie Mack, made the final cut.
Fueled by her passion for dance, Mack is making her mark in New York City. While forging a strong foundation for her career, she’s also exploring future roles in choreography, teaching and arts management. Her ambitious plans illustrate one path tomorrow’s dancers are taking.
“I was placed on the Rockettes’ alternate list,” explains Mack. “We filled out the paperwork and they took our measurements for costumes.” Because the Rockettes scaled back their touring this year, the need for new dancers was reduced.
While this audition process was intimidating, Mack calls it one of her most rewarding experiences and an opportunity to grow up quickly. “I competed with the ‘big dogs’ – matching their professionalism and acting like a Rockette for two days.”
She knew many of the women – most had been Rockettes for years – from participating in the Rockettes’ Summer Intensive (RSI), a week-long auditioned dance program designed for advanced dancers that Mack had attended during previous summers. She was also involved in RSI’s selective invitational week, where she learned even more Rockette dances.
“We’re treated like Rockettes, rehearsing in their space with their dance captains and directors,” says Mack. “I’m usually the youngest one in my group.” They learned two numbers – both tap and jazz – along with the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers from the Christmas spectacular. The week culminates with a performance.
“My mom always says I was onstage when I was three weeks old,” remarks Mack. “And I was in tap shoes as soon as I could walk. I’ve been dancing my entire life and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Stevie’s mother, Valerie Lippoldt Mack, is music and dance chair at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. Valerie is a well-known music educator and choreographer; she’s also authored several best-selling books, including “Putting the Show in Choir.”
While growing up, Stevie accompanied her mother to numerous show choir camps and workshops, learning firsthand the commitment required for excellence. Today Stevie also helps choreograph shows, including for Valerie’s show choir, the Butler Headliners.
“Fortunately, I grew up with a terrific choreographer – my mom – and I’ve learned a lot from her,” explains Stevie. “I love helping non-dancers turn into dancers; I’m currently teaching high school boys how to tap dance.”
Becoming a Rockette is one of her top aspirations, but Stevie is also preparing for other performance opportunities, including Broadway musical theater. She takes private voice lessons and attends Pace University in New York City, where she majors in commercial dance.
Intensive & Nurturing.
Pace is a unique liberal arts college with a conservatory style, blending academics with intensive exposure to all facets of dance, along with acting and singing classes. The program is relatively new and highly selective, with rigorous admission standards and auditions. For admitted students, Pace fosters a nurturing environment.
“My Pace dance family includes some of my best friends,” explains Mack. “We’re there together to learn – it’s not a competition. Everyone has their own strengths and styles. Our director encourages us to support each other, in part because one of our peers might be working with us or casting us some day.”
After performing or teaching, Mack hopes to utilize her Pace minor in arts and entertainment management. “There’s a business side to dance that I really love,” she states. “Maybe I’ll own or manage a dance studio or dance company.”
Despite her busy schedule, Mack wouldn’t change a thing. “At the end of the day – even a long, difficult day – it’s my passion that gets me through. I put my head on my pillow, content with my effort. If you strive for excellence every day, then you’re always a winner.”
Whether or not she ever officially joins the Rockettes, Stevie’s future career trajectory is clearly sky-high! (To learn more about Stevie, visit her website.)