It’s a Wonderful (Leggy) Life

Want a little noodle kugel with that egg nog?

On Prancer, on Dasher, on Rudolph, on … Shmuel?

Ho-ho — oy: Talk about kick-starting your holidays; certainly Rhonda Kaufman Malkin has one leg up on others.

Rocket in her pocket? She's got them on her feet as the Jewish Rockette gets set to tap, tap, tap her way to happiness and joy as a member of the terpsichorean troupe performing "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular" in New York.

Just 90 miles south, her dancer-sisters in spirit bring the show for two performances to the Wachovia Center on Dec. 2.

No, Noel, there won't be any candle-lightings at this event; unless Santa's clause suddenly allows it. Although there was one year in which the Rockettes' spectacular did include Chanukah, the oil ran out on that production.

But there is a Jewish element to the annual treat which features enough Christian symbols to cross a rabbi's eyes; you're looking at her.

The lovely and lithe 31-year-old California dreamer — with a degree in sociology from UCLA, she certainly spins a different image of a grad kicking down doors to get a job — knew that "I could do that!" the first time the Rockettes rocked her with their performance 10 years ago.

But it took another two years before she could join the starting lineup, in which grand slams may be another way to describe the fulfilling fatigue factor that comes with performing numerous shows — "I can do four a day" — during holiday season.

Dance 10, looks 10 — but it took a perfect 10 in persistance to gain a foothold with the Rockettes. Indeed, she's got it down to Rockette science, one in which the erstwhile Laker Girl pools her energy to pull off such collapse-defying stints as the legendary "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" in which kids and even their grinch gramps fall in line with praise.

An unorthodox venue for an observant Jewish woman, who maintains kashrut consistently wherever her legs and tours take her?

Not really, she says, citing the catholic makeup of the Rockettes, in which Catholics, Jews and Muslims mix to make a merry little crystal-clear image of camaraderie.

Hold on to Your Kipah!
A cornucopia of Chanukah and Christmas cheer? Hold on to your kipah — Kaufman Malkin has a midnight mass following — having nothing to do with services.

Not of the Christian kind anyway: The performer, whose credits include being a dance judge, takes personal training personally — especially in the Jewish community.

A woman who wants to maintain her Orthodoxy as much as possible — yes, she avers, she does perform on Shabbat but will walk to the stage when she can, or try, if allowed, no high-kicking during the High Holidays — she often visits observant Jewish neighborhoods when on tour, celebrating with those who take her in for a Shabbat or festive holiday meal.

Of Chanukah, Christmas and … Chasids? "I'm a personal trainer for the Chasidic community," she flat-out states of her Brooklyn Flatbush branching out.

"You can be a religious Jew — and I have a lot of connections to that community — and be a Rockette."

But not just a Rockette — a Rockette recruiter? For audiences, in a way: "They get a great workout," says Kaufman Malkin of her work with Chasids.

And do they ever want to see where she works? O, Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum — take a seat right here: "I've taken a lot of Chasidic clients to Radio City to see the show," she says.

Their response: Days of awe. "I took 20 Chasidic women to the Christmas show and they were in awe of it."

Meanwhile, the New Yorker awaits a new Chanukah celebration this year, one in which she again can walk home after a high time of high-kicks at Radio City.

Menorahs and matinees? It's a wonderful (leggy) life: Yes, she says, with talent — and toes — up to her eyeballs: She can do that. 



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