- Last Updated: 11:19 AM, May 27, 2012
- Posted: 1:22 AM, May 27, 2012
Ballet has the Black Swan. She was the dark Rockette.
Greta Gleissner came to New York to make it big — landing a glamorous role as a high-kicking beauty at the famous “Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”
But instead of towing the glittering dance line, she fell into a downward spiral of bulimia, humiliation and despair.
“I remember thinking this was supposed to be the job that allowed me to change my life,” Gleissner, 38, told The Post. “It didn’t. It got even worse.”
Her memoir, “Something Spectacular,” to be released next month, chronicles her time as a tortured dancer who would spend hundreds of dollars a week on junk food, and nearly killed herself throwing it up between performances.
Because there’s no such thing as a fat Rockette.
“As much as we say it’s just another gig, it’s much more than that,” she said. “There’s something mysterious about being a Rockette.”
The troupe of time-tested tinsel has been a New York icon since 1933, producing up to five shows a day, seven days a week.
Growing up in Kansas City, Kan., Gleissner saw them on TV and took ballet and tap. She landed a role as a Rockette in Branson, Mo., before moving to New York.
In March 2000, the hopeful 27-year-old waited outside Radio City Music Hall for her chance to make it big.
Rockettes must be between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-10, with no exceptions. Gleissner, 5-foot-7, made it into the morning cast.
The air of competitiveness blasted her on Day 1 — starting with the “fat test.”
A contracted company herded the Rockettes into the dressing room and pinched their underarms, abdomens and thighs to measure muscle and fat ratios.
If a Rockette needed to shape up, she’d get a few written warnings before being suspended.
“I was terrified I was going to be on their list,” Gleissner said.
The Rockettes started in October with just three weeks to put together the entire show. They danced eight hours a day and memorized every move.
There was some brightness, however, to the spectacle: People loved that she was a Rockette.
“If I told anybody, they would freak out,” Gleissner said. “I’ve had relationships where they think it’s so cool. ‘Oh, I’m with a Rockette.’ ”
“It was a double-edged sword,” Gleissner added. “Even with all my insecurities, I loved the confidence it gave me at times.”
But toward the end, she couldn’t take the lows any longer. She skipped one of the final shows and scarfed down a McDonald’s breakfast and two-pound ball of mozzarella at her apartment.
Gleissner tried to throw up but began choking. The cheese was caught somewhere inside her. She began frantically pulling the white strings out of her throat.
“I really thought I was going to die,” she said. “It was the worst thing in my life.”
The anguished Rockette finished the season, but never returned to Radio City. She checked into a treatment facility for eating disorders to confront her demons.
A decade later, she’s an eating-disorder specialist and lives with her wife on the Upper West Side.
“Had I not been imprisoned by my eating disorder, I could have been doing it for years and years,” she said. “But even now, I wouldn’t take any of it back.”