Three sisters—Alison, Kristin and Lisa Jantzie—talk about being Radio City Rockettes
The Jantzie sisters are the Rockettes’ triple threat
Thu Dec 5 2013
Does Snow come at the end?
Alison: Yeah. It’s really beautiful. It has a hint of a vintage-glam feel.
Kristin: Especially once we put those costumes on.
Alison: It’s such an elegant closing number to the show.
Lisa: There’s some new technology in the show that you see in Snow. At the end of our dancing, there are nine giant snowflakes that come out of the pit; the orchestra is down underneath the stage and there are nine flying snowflakes run by a GPS-type system that are released. They move over the audience.
How has Linda transformed the Rockettes for you? What did you think before coming here?
Kristin: I started in 2005, and Linda was the director of the show, which was a version of the tour and she brought Twelve Days to the show. A tap choreographer worked with her also. So that was her stamp and her style. My first year in New York featured all her choreography, which she again changed for the 75th anniversary. That was the year when we really started to shock the audiences of New York with the new direction of the Rockettes, but what audiences will see in the [upcoming] spring show is the precision of the Rockettes—the way she’s changing it…I’m at a loss for words. It’s the port de bras, it’s the attitude, it’s the technique, it’s the expectation—it’s so much higher than what you would think it is when you’re dancing onstage with 36 people. She’s beginning to showcase what we can do beyond the eye-high kick, and Snow really gives the audience a sense of what that means. Dancing beyond the eye-high kick. They are always going to be part of the Rockette tradition, but in terms of how dance has become so mainstream lately with shows like So You Think You Can Dance, I think our audiences expect more than just a tight formation and precision port de bras. They expect a little more movement in the upper body.
Alison: I also think she has such a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Even from a theater standpoint, the choreographers that she worked with influence where she’s coming from and what she’s bringing to this. It’s amazing to be in rehearsal; whether it’s the position of a finger or any detail she adds to the choreography, it makes such a huge difference.
Kristin: Sometimes you wonder, “Why are you hung up on this count?” But when you watch the other cast, you understand. [Laughs]
Alison: It’s silent whenever she comes into the room. Everyone is prepared to bring their A-game.
Lisa: Everyone holds their breath a little bit more.
Kristin: It’s been really interesting to prepare the new numbers—we’ve already spent a lot of time working on the choreography. She’s continuing to work it. Being part of the process as she choreographs and stages some of the changes has been really interesting.
Alison: Like, how do I make it look like she just did it? [Laughs]
Kristin: She comes in wearing her black LaDucas and her leggings and puts us to shame.
Alison: She expects a lot, but there’s such a feeling of respect among every Rockette and her—and everyone that’s involved. It makes for a wonderful workplace, and it makes learning not just challenging but enjoyable.
Kristin: It’s really easy to be one of her dancers because you just put your trust in what she’s saying and you try to achieve her vision. You know that it’s going to translate into something beautiful onstage.
Alison: I feel it’s like, who knows where it’s going to go? But it’s going to knock our socks off.
Rockettes had to audition for the spring show. Did you all make it?
[They nod yes.] Lisa: We’re all really excited. I wasn’t involved in the workshop this past year, but we have quite a lot of rehearsals leading up to opening—twice as many as we have for the Christmas show. We start in the middle of January.
Alison: And we’re all going to be in the same cast. That’s something that we’ve never done before and that’s something I’m kind of excited about.
Lisa: Right now, I’m just focused on getting through Christmas. We know that we have another opportunity coming up, but we still have to stay on our game. Once Thanksgiving hits, and we’re up to 16 shows a week for each cast, it’s a lot of shows. It’s not one of those things that you can just turn off your brain for; first of all, the theater is so huge that you have to be giving a lot of energy to make that movement, to make that dynamic translate. If you let your mind go somewhere else in the middle of the show, you will lose your place in the choreography. You do not want to do that.
Alison: You can see everything from everywhere. There’s no hiding!
Lisa: Every person has to take responsibility for every show, and that’s the expectation every time you go onstage. Even just from a safety standpoint. Think about Wooden Soldiers: That’s our traditional precision number, and we do the soldier fall at the end. You’ll literally hurt somebody if you do not hold your own in that soldier fall every single show. It’s just like any other dance step—we have steps we have to follow to make the fall happen the same way every time.
Alison: It’s teamwork.