The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is performed up to six times a day from November 13 to January 3 at Radio City Music Hall at Rockefeller Center, America’s most popular Christmas destination. The show features none other than the world’s most precise dancers, the Rockettes, which are an iconic New York Christmas institution watched by one million people each year at the biggest indoor theater in the world.
The theater is all art deco opulence, with thick carpets, 6,000 silky smooth seats and an enormous stage that oozes Golden Age glamour, where some of America’s greatest entertainers have performed.
Together with the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the Rockettes are a cornerstone of the winter holiday season, with New York expected to welcome 5.3 million visitors.
We spoke with one of these iconic dancers, Christine Sienicki…Jersey Girl, Rutgers grad and veteran on this world renowned dance team. What a role model for any girl!
I went to the Philippines, when I was 13, at Christmas time. Everyone had one of those lanterns in their window at Christmas. It was the prettiest thing. I made my mom bring one back.
ASIANCE: Would you say you grew up in a traditional Asian household. Did your mom want you to have a traditional career? What did your parents say when you wanted to be a full time dancer??
Christine: My mom is Filipino. My dad is American. They were supportive of whatever I wanted to do. I pretty much wanted to dance since I was five years old (laughs). My babysitters used to tell my parents they couldn’t watch television because I was dancing so much in front of it. My parents knew I always wanted to be a dancer.
ASIANCE: What are you trained in?
Christine: Everything! My dance teachers were very good. They knew I should practice and rehearse EVERYTHING and be very versatile. So they pushed me. I trained in everything at an early age.
ASIANCE: Did you follow any other Asian American dancers? Or have your eye on any?
Christine: There weren’t that many in the spotlight growing up but in my dance company there was. I always looked up to them. Actually, just dancers in general.
ASIANCE: How did you know you wanted Rockette?
Christine: When I was a young girl, growing up dancing in front of the TV (laughs), my parents used to take me to Radio City every Christmas. I lived in New Jersey. It wasn’t until I was 9 that one of the girls in my dance company graduated and became a Rockette. My entire dancing school bused in and when I saw her on stage, that’s when I knew!
ASIANCE: Anyone else in your company become a Rockette?
Christine: I only know the girl before me. Many of the other girls do other things. They have families and come to watch me every year. It’s become their family tradition. So that’s really nice. My dance teachers also come every year. I went to Dance World Academy. Clifton is the main one.
ASIANCE: Do you remember Setsuko Maruhashi? Was she someone that you could follow or gave you encouragement like you can do it?
Christine: I wasn’t a Rockette yet (laughs) but I know of her!
ASIANCE: How long to you practice in season?
Christine: We train like athletes! Our rehearsals are 6 days a week, 6 hours a day. It’s non-stop cardio!!
ASIANCE: Do you have a favorite snack or any eating advice for healthy eating and staying in shape??
Christine: It changes what I eat during the in season and what I eat during the off season. In season, we are exercising so much but it’s hard to eat the same thing in between the shows. You want to have enough energy but don’t want to feel sick on stage. We eat a lot of carbs and peanut butter. Most people think we don’t eat a lot of carbs but we really do eat a lot of carbs! Surprisingly, pizza is great. Pasta in between, so it’s not too heavy on your stomach. In the off-season, I’ll eat a lot of vegetables and lean meats. I try to stay pretty healthy.
ASIANCE: Drink a lot of water?
Christine: Probably not as much as I should. In season, I’ll drink a lot of Powerade which replenishes the electrolytes you lose when you sweat so much. Bananas are really important.
ASIANCE: This is your15th year. Are you the longest running veteran?
Christine: I think there is one other girl who is there 16 years!
ASIANCE: Wow is that a record?
Christine: Actually, I don’t think it is.
ASIANCE: What advice do you have for girls who want to be a Rockette or full time dancer?
Christine: It’s just about dedication, working hard and dreaming big. It’s believing that you can achieve it, if you work hard enough.
ASIANCE: What do you think is the most important thing your organization is looking for in a Rockette?
Christine: Most important part is paying attention to detail. We are so precise and that is what we’re known for. If your pinky is out of place, you’ll receive a note during rehearsal. We’re constantly getting notes throughout the entire run of the show. Our job is never over. We are always getting evaluated and checked on, just to make sure the show is crisp and perfect as it can be. Paying attention to detail is the best advice.
ASIANCE: What is new this year the people can look forward to at Christmas at Radio City?
Christine: One of our newest themes, that I love, is the rag doll scene. You are taken to Santa’s Enchanted Workshop in the North Pole. We’re dressed up as rag dolls and basically come to life. It’s this high energy tap number. It’s very different from our normal routines which is really fun because all the energy is there but you can see our personalities. The personalities come out and we can be with the crowd. One of my favorite parts is coming up on the pit elevator. It’s so close to the audience. I don’t think we ever get so close to the audience. Every child in the front row wants to reach out and touch us. It’s such a fun moment. We spin blocks and tap on blocks. We spell out Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The crowd goes wild! And one of our classic, Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, which has been in our show since 1933. That is a fan favorite! It embodies precision dancing and what the Rockettes are! When the cannon comes out, everyone cheers!
ASIANCE: What do you like to do in your spare time or the off season?
Christine: We work year round. We also have a summer show. We’re just as busy as we are now. We do many workshops and lots of other events…Lots of television shows throughout the year. Aside from that, I love to travel. I do many outdoor activities. I try to stay busy!
ASIANCE: Do you teach in the offseason?
Christine: Sometimes I will do Master classes with different studios or I’ll go back to my studio. Many times we’ll have summer intensive classes.
ASIANCE: Do you have any Asian traditions for Christmas?
Christine: One thing, a Parol, is a Filipino lantern. I went to the Philippines, when I was 13, at Christmas time. Everyone had one of those lanterns in their window at Christmas. It was the prettiest thing. I made my mom bring one back. She thought it was a good idea but I had to carry it the whole way! (laughs) So we have one of those. Also, we have a nativity scene which is very important in Filipino culture too. That is also beautiful in the show. That is one of my mom’s favorite parts of the show!
ASIANCE: Where are you in the lineup? Where can people see you?
Christine: I’m pretty much smack in the center of the line. Look middle and to the right.
ASIANCE: How many girls are picked every year?
Christine: It really depends every year. It could be one or six. Every girl needs to audition again every year .
What: The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York
When: Now through Jan. 3
For tickets and more information on daily shows: Log on to radiocitychristmas.com
About the show: The highlight of the 90-minute show has always been the iconic Rockettes and their synchronized chorus line leg kicks. They perform a half-dozen or so numbers, including the long-standing fan-favorite Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.