Russell Markert Obituary

Russell Markert Obituary
The NY Times
Note on source

Russell Markert, the founder and longtime director of the Rockettes, died on Saturday at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut. He was 91 years old and lived in Heritage Village in Southbury, Conn.

From the opening of Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center in 1932 until Mr. Markert's retirement in 1971, he was the chief choreographer, image-preserver and resident father-figure of the famous troupe of tall, svelte women.

In the era when the Music Hall played to full houses every day of the year, he trained and rehearsed 2,500 Rockettes, young women who had to be 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, with pretty faces and shapely figures who were adept in ballet, tap and soft shoe and able to kick at least 6 inches over their heads.

Besides "exceptionally limber kicks," Mr. Markert said in 1967, he also required applicants to have a background in modern jazz, the ability to pick up new steps quickly and a personality that not only projected from the stage, but also merged into the ensemble. Intuitive Mathematics

A Rockettes routine usually originated in a dramatic concept or an evocative piece of music. Mr. Markert and an associate director then worked out the floor patterns and step combinations, relying on what he described as a kind of intuitive mathematics.

The ensemble produced such film stars as Vera-Ellen and Lucille Bremer and has had an indelible impact on the halftime activities of several generations of American sports events. Mr. Markert's posts at the Music Hall also included producer and vice president.

His 90th birthday was honored last year by more than 400 people -- Rockettes, former Rockettes and friends -- at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in mid-Manhattan for the benefit of the Russell Markert Dance Scholarship at the Juilliard School. In Military Shows

The innovative and effervescent choreographer was born on Aug. 8, 1899, in Jersey City, where he attended public schools and began to study dance. In World War I, he served in the Army Quartermaster Corps in France and, in his free time, performed in military shows.

Mr. Markert began his professional career on Broadway, graduated from the chorus to dance director of the annual revue "Earl Carroll's Vanities" and, in St. Louis in 1925, founded a women's precision troupe called the Missouri Rockets.

While playing in Manhattan, the group was spotted by the impresario S. L. (Roxy) Rothafel, who headlined them at the Roxy Theater as "The Roxyettes." They moved to the Music Hall for its 1932 opening and soon became the Rockettes. In 1937, the troupe appeared at the Paris International Exposition, competed with Europe's leading dance companies and walked off with the grand prize.

Mr. Markert leaves no immediate survivors.

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