Portland's Sydney Mesher: Inspiring Radio City Rockettes member
Notoriety comes with being a member of the Radio City Rockettes, and Sydney Mesher enjoys being in the limelight.
"My favorite part is stepping into the legacy. There's so much history," said the Portland native, who enters her third year with the famous dance company. "And, the sisterhood in general and the respect that New York City has for the arts, let alone the Rockettes … they are so influential in New York City, it's something that people look forward to every year."
The Rockettes are again preparing for the "Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes," Nov. 18 to Jan. 2, 2023 at Radio City Music Hall at Rockefeller Center.
"It's important to be in a position that brings people so much joy. We walk out the stage door, and have fans waiting in line," Mesher added. "There's a lot of pride in being a Rockette. It makes the job more special. It helps people celebrate their holidays."
With such status comes more media attention. Mesher made news in 2019, upon joining the Rockettes, for becoming the first dancer in the company's illustrious history with "a visible disability." She was born without a left hand; several media outlets did stories on her, including ESPN.
Mesher hoped that being a "groundbreaking" performer helped others with disabilities, although not having one hand doesn't affect her dancing at all.
"That is one of the most beautiful things about it — I'm just another woman in the line," she said. "Most people don't notice on stage, even during 'Here Comes Santa Claus' when I hold a bell. I'm just another woman in the line."
Mesher, 25, tried out twice for the Rockettes, and it was her first theater job after graduating from Pace University in New York City in 2018.
"It's been a dream come true. Sounds cheesy, but true," said Mesher, who attended Lincoln High, graduating in 2015, and trained mostly at Multnomah Athletic Club dance studio. She also attended Jefferson High School for a year and danced under the guidance of esteemed coach Steve Gonzales with the Jefferson Dancers.
She has a background in hip hop, jazz, tap, ballet and theater performing.
"I think my hip hop training helped me a lot," she said, "because of the musicality, strength and muscle. I fell in love with it. I studied a lot of hip hop growing up, and I loved the commercial world, but when I moved to New York I moved into the Rockettes style."
As a youth, Mesher would watch the Rockettes in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. She and fellow Multnomah Athletic Club dancers opened for the Rockettes when they performed at the Moda Center.
Mesher, who's 5-foot-10 1/2, performed with the Rockettes in 2019 and 2021 — the Christmas show was canceled in 2020 — and made the company again this year.
The "Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes" starts with auditions in the spring and rehearsals beginning in September and includes performances virtually every day from mid-November to early January.
This year, the Rockettes also were involved with the making of a Hallmark Channel movie ("A Holiday Spectacular," airing Nov. 27), and Mesher acted and danced in the production. "It's two pillars of Christmas coming together," she said, of the Rockettes and a Hallmark movie.
Next year, she'll have a book coming out about her life as a Rockette.
Clearly, she has a story to tell, about excelling in dance and reaching the level of the Radio City Rockettes while also living with a "visible disability." She was born with the rare congenital condition symbrachydactyly, and without a left hand.
Mesher told ESPN in 2019: "Being a Rockette, and being a Rockette with one hand — I am groundbreaking in that sense. So even though I don't consider my disability to be that challenging, I need to be in this position to let others have that opportunity."
Mesher was helped greatly as a youth by Nicole Jamieson, a basketball player who played at Concordia University, who was born without a right hand. Jamieson inspired Mesher, and she actually briefly lived with the Mesher family and worked for Mesher's father. Jamieson taught Mesher how to tie shoes.
"She is incredible, I still have a great relationship with her," Mesher said. "She was very influential to me growing up, not just because she had one hand. She's a beautiful person, a sister to me."
When not busy with the Rockettes, Mesher does some other dance projects and some modeling. She has a sister living in New York City, but her parents and extended family still reside in the Bridlemile neighborhood of Southwest Portland.
Mesher actually had previously met fellow Rockette from the Portland area, Brooklyn Bronson, who made the team this year, as "the dance world is small in New York." The two are in the same Rockettes Blue cast.
Mesher said dancing for the Rockettes could remain part of her future.
"I definitely see myself dancing here. I don't have an angle (on something else), let's say that," she said. "I have so much fun. Everyone is so excited to be here, and is so excited to get back on stage."
For more on Mesher, check out the in-depth ESPN story and video about her from 2019:
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