Maywood’s Own Rockette

By Katie Hills

Photo courtesy of Radio City Music Hall website.

Purdie Baumann, who grew up in Maywood, Ill., has had a distinguished dance career, notable for her eight years as a Radio City Rockette in New York City.

After leaving Maywood to major in ballet at the North Carolina School of the Arts for two years, she moved to New York City to start her professional dance career.

Brand new to New York at just 19 years old, she remembers the first time she auditioned for the Rockettes.

“I went to this audition; it was in a basement. I definitely didn’t have the right tap shoes, I definitely wasn’t ready for the Broadway theatre world, and I definitely got cut,” Baumann explained.

After another six months of dancing, she was offered a dance position on a European cruise ship, which not only allowed her to travel around Europe for six months, but also to develop her “performance chops,” as Baumann called them, and “learn the ropes” of performing.

When another cruise ship offer came up, Baumann spent six more months performing and in 2001 decided she was ready to go back to New York. With greater performing experience in addition to her technical skills, she auditioned again for the Rockettes and was booked immediately.

Baumann’s path to stardom can be traced back to her own mother’s dance studio, Stairway of the Stars, in her hometown, where she began dance classes at the age of three.

“I know I’m biased, but it was the best class ever because we did the most fun dances. I never thought it was weird [being in my mom’s class], not for one second,” Baumann said.

Baumann’s parents, Lois and Ernie, opened Stairway of the Stars in 1979, as well as Mr. Ernie’s Flip, Flop & Fly tumbling school (where Purdie also took classes) shortly after. Since then, the schools have expanded to include a music, drama, and fine arts non-profit called Maywood Fine Arts.

Baumann now appreciates the hard work that her parents put into the organization that gave her dance career a beginning.

“Watching from the outside and watching my parents struggle to provide something so special for the community is hard, but there are so many people who are so about the cause who put themselves right there with them,” Baumann said.

Now she will return home to join her parents in celebrating the 85th anniversary of the Radio City Rockettes by participating in the Kick-It! Challenge presented by National Danceweek.

On Saturday, October 13th, Baumann will participate in the Rockette kick-line, but she will also perform a special dance number with her nieces, who have all attended classes at Stairway and Fine Arts.

The Kick-It! Challenge kick-line will take place at 5th and Lake during the Pumpkin Patch Parade, the yearly fundraiser for Maywood Fine Arts. For more information on how to join in, go to the Fine Arts website. Click on the link below to learn the steps to the kick-line dance beforehand.

Maywood Fine Arts Kick-It! Challenge instructional video.