Kathleen Laituri

The Radio City Rockette
Former Pace University student, Kathleen Laituri

As the fall 2017 semester was coming to a close, one Pace senior wasn’t studying in the libraries. Kathleen Laituri, a member of the Pforzheimer Honors College and the BFA Commercial Dance program, was studying backstage at Radio City Music Hall as a Rockette in the world famous Radio City Christmas Spectacular!

Laituri grew up in a small town in Michigan and began dancing at the age of three. Laituri recalls loving dance from the start, and as the years passed, it was clear that the discipline and time management skills from dance carried over into the academic classroom. Graduating in the top percent of her high school class and possessing a phenomenal dance skill set, Laituri was at a stand still as it came time to choosing a place of higher education. It wasn’t until she discovered Pace University at a college fair that she realized she didn’t have to choose between her desire to be a professional dancer and her love of academics.

“I knew that Pace is where I wanted to go. I was so dead set on Pace. I knew that the way the [Commercial Dance] program was set up—having such diverse training and connections and being in New York City—it just seemed like the place I needed to be. It was really cool to decide to pursue dance and then have the opportunity to go to a school that was going to help me go further,” she says.

Laituri recalled coming to Pace with the passion of a professional dancer, but not a game plan of how to make that dream a reality. It was her jazz classes with Lauren Gaul, associate director of the Commercial Dance program that introduced her to the idea of becoming a Rockette. Gaul was a Rockette for 10 years herself and would occasionally teach classes in the style of the show during the semester. Laituri humbly spoke of her first year when the intricacy and precision of the Rockette style didn’t come easily to her. With endless determination, a fierce work ethic, and the mentorship of Gaul, Laituri was soon on her way to special invitational intensives with the Rockettes. These workshops ultimately led to her acquiring the job going into her senior year.

Laituri’s recollection of her opening night in the Christmas Spectacular would give anyone goose bumps. As the curtains of Radio City Music Hall were rising to reveal Laituri alongside 35 fellow Rockettes, she had a flashback to her first class with Gaul during her freshman year at Pace. It was during this first class with Gaul that Laituri learned the same steps she was about to perform for thousands. “To realize I got there through the training that I got at school was the most special moment ever,” she says with awe in her voice.

 

 

 

Laituri was able to juggle the demanding schedule of being a Rockette and a full-time student due to excellent planning and the Pace Path. Laituri had diligently taken full course loads during her first three years at Pace and with guidance from her program directors and Honors College directors, she was able to enter her senior year taking 13 credits, some of which were online.

Curious what a day in the life of a fulltime student-Rockette looked like? During rehearsals for the Christmas Spectacular, Laituri would arrive two hours early to Radio City Music Hall to practice. She would then rehearse with her cast mates from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. She’d stay after rehearsal to continue practicing then take the subway downtown to Pace to rehearse for Pace’s spring dance concert, Dance Out Loud. She’d head home, do her homework from her online courses, and fall into bed, only to repeat the next day! While Laituri admits this was the most rigorous schedule she’d ever had, she said it was a dream come true! Studying for a psychology exam in the dressing room on a four-show day wasn’t easy, but it was worth it to Laituri.

Where will Laituri’s Pace Path take her next? Come May, Laituri will be back on the Radio City Music Hall stage. Not as a Rockette, but as a graduate of Pace University! Laituri feels confident to dive into her professional career because of her time at Pace. Living in New York City has given her the organization, connections, and business skills she needs to tackle the demanding life of a dancer. When asked what she imagines life would be like heading into the real world had she not chosen the Pace Path she said, “I think I would have felt disorganized, and I think I would have doubted my decision to become a professional dancer had I not attended Pace. I’m very grateful. I’ve already transitioned to living in New York, and I haven’t graduated yet! I wouldn’t be where I am today without four years of learning and guidance at Pace University. I am now so much more confident in pursuit of the dreams I’ve carried with me since I was three years old.”


Author Madison Embrey ’14 is a graduate of the Pforzheimer Honors College and the BFA Commercial Dance program. Embrey was one of the first graduates of this fairly new and innovative dance program. During her time at Pace she worked in recruitment for the Performing Arts Department, giving hundreds of tours to prospective students. In fact, Embrey was the student that introduced Laituri to Pace University at the college fair mentioned above! Upon graduation, Madison traveled the United States and Europe, performing with the live action stunt show, Marvel Universe Live! She’s now back living and dancing in NYC, and was the 2017 recipient of the Lorna Strassler Award for Student Excellence given by the prestigious School at Jacob’s Pillow. Laituri and Embrey were studying together last summer at Jacob’s Pillow when Laituri received her call offering her the job as a Radio City Rockette. It’s a memory they’ll both never forget.