If you’ve seen the iconic, world-famous Radio City Rockettes this year on national television, then chances are you’ve seen a Radford University Highlander on the kickline.
Caitlin Potosnak, ’12 dazzles thousands of holiday-spirited people every day with high-stepping precision choreography and sequined costumes. This successful Highlander didn’t become a Rockette overnight, instead she poured years into crafting her style and refining her precision dance moves until this year she made the cut.
While an undergraduate student at Radford University, Potosnak knew the department of dance would set a firm foundation for her future and chose a program that would help sharpen her skillset. The program is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Dance and provides a dance education that encourages an environment committed to dance as an art form.
Potosnak started in Radford dancing through productions on campus, excelled her way to become a member of the West Virginia Dance Company and is now making her mark in the Big Apple entertaining families in one of the most well-known dance companies in the world.
During her busy practice and performance schedule, and after her appearance on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, she took time to answer a few questions about her journey to New York and the behind-the-scenes life of a Rockette.
How did you become a Rockette?
I started doing precision dance when they offered the Rockette summer intensive about ten years ago. I kept going back almost every year since. Then I was lucky to meet former and current Rockettes who offer classes, workshops, and private lessons. I started working more intensely on the style and dancing in heels along with my kicks! I continued to audition each year, and this year I made it all the way through in the April audition. I was invited to their conservatory program and they invited me for another audition in August. Now here I am!
It was a long journey of taking many dance classes, Pilates, private lessons, and working on my mental strength with confidence and perseverance.
What does it feel like to be part of this world-famous, long-lasting ensemble?
It’s so amazing and such a dream come true. I still can’t believe that I get to wear their iconic costumes and kick on the radio city music hall stage! I’m just so grateful for this opportunity and honored in every way to be on this line.
What type of training is required for such a big role?
The training consists of having a good foundation in ballet and even pointe work. Taking jazz and theater classes in Laducas heels and tap classes in Laduca taps. Learning how to dance in a heel and be very aware of details and counts in choreography. Also, taking Pilates, yoga, barre, and continuing to become stronger outside of dance classes. As well as having the mental and emotional strength.
What does a day-in-the-life of Caitlin look like during this busy season?
This is my rookie season so I’m still getting used to the performance schedule. However, right now I get as much sleep as I can. Once I get up, I have coffee and eat either a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, oatmeal or a bagel. I roll my body out on a foam roller while I think about the show choreography and the notes that I need to work on in the show. I’ll do a little Pilates routine to get my body a little energized. I’ll also go over some choreography just to make sure I have it in my body. Then I put on some comfy clothes to head to Radio City. I usually leave two hours ahead of the show time. I’ll take the subway which is about a 30–40-minute ride.
Then, once I’m at Radio City I put my makeup on and hair in a French twist while sitting on a heating pad to warm up my legs. Once that’s done, I’ll have about 20 minutes to do some strengthening and stretching exercises to help my body get ready for the show. We get notes before the show so then I’ll review some things before it’s show time! We either have 2, 3, or 4 shows in a day. I’m the evening cast so I get home late. Once I get home, I grab a bag of ice and some food from the grocery store across the street. Take an ice bath, shower, stretch and head to bed!
How did your experience at Radford University help get you where you are today?
Radford University’s dance program helped me continue my ballet and pointe training as well as exposing me to contemporary and jazz. Our schedule of technique classes and rehearsals on the weekends prepared me for my professional career. Our professors at Radford encouraged us to do intensives in the summer and brought in other artists during the year. We were constantly exposed to new choreographers and styles of dance. This helped me adapt when I joined companies like West Virginia dance company who brought in many choreographers as well. Especially helped with getting my job at Radio City!
What classes/professors/internships/experiences, etc. inspired you to dream big?
This is a big question as I have a lot of people that have inspired me, but I always knew I wanted to go to NYC and dance. Just being in the New York dance scene and taking classes is inspiring. There are so many talented dancers and I wanted to do exactly what they were doing. I continued to follow certain teachers and they are all so supportive and helped me keep at it. I’m just so grateful for my fiancé, family, mentors, teachers, and friends who continue to be so supportive.
What does the future look like for you?
I’m getting married this July so I’m very excited about that. I plan to finish the 16 credits that I have left in my master’s degree of clinical mental health counseling. I would like to eventually help dancers with their mental health. I also plan on continuing to dance, take workshops, audition for other shows during the year, and reaudition for another Rockette season!