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
How can you be soft within that precision?
Kristin: It’s not just the line, but épaulement. You might describe the line as “one arm is shoulder height, and the other one is 45 degrees up,” but it’s so much more than just that. There’s something in here that has to happen. It has to grow.
Lisa: Something they’ve started to talk about in rehearsals is that we have to be able to dance the syncopation of the choreography. So it’s not just about doing every count in the same dynamic and making it rigid. In Snow, everything is right in the music. It’s not just knowing the choreography, it’s also interpreting the music, which is what dance is.
Alison: Finding the softness is part of approaching it from a character-driven standpoint. In some numbers, it doesn’t really apply, because it wouldn’t make sense. And the way they break it down in rehearsals, they will go through what the pathway of the arm is and whether or not in this moment there’s a breath or something more behind it. It’s all driven from a place of intention and character and what the mood of each piece is, so I think, for me, there’s no softness where it’s not warranted.
Like in the video-game dance. Do you enjoy dancing that?
Alison: I do. I love riding up on the elevator: You get a count to look at whomever just battled the humbugs, and you’re like, “I’m here. Let’s do this!” It’s so important to make that number read.
Kristin: In terms of approach, acting is really important in that. For the first time, they told me that I couldn’t smile. I understand. There are some parts of that dance where we’re really fierce or proud and some moments when you’re scared. Riding up the elevator gives me a little bit of nervous energy each time: It’s not that something’s going to go wrong, but it’s like, Am I going to make it through? Because that dance is very strenuous.
Alison: I think that in the Christmas Spectacular, there’s the mom-and-daughter narrative. There’s something for the little kids who love video games or for the people that come for the traditional numbers. And there’s a sense of relationship between the ensemble dancers and the singers. There’s something for everyone, and that’s pretty awesome. It’s hard to find.
What do you admire about each other’s dancing in the Rockettes?
Lisa: This year, Kristin and I are the same track in opposite casts, so it’s been really interesting and good for me. My background was more ballet, and it took me a long time—this is my fourth year, and I think I’m finally starting to figure out what it takes and how open my mind needs to be. Not just my mind, but picking up on all of the things that make you want to watch somebody within the Rockettes or that make somebody a strong Rockette. It’s that extra thing that draws your eye to somebody. When we’re rehearsing in the studio, sometimes it’s both casts together and then one cast will be in front of the other. I’ll be behind Kristin. This is her ninth year. She has a lot of experience with the Rockettes, and I think it’s really influenced my dancing. I think I’m doing the same steps, but actually I’m not. It’s been helpful for me to see that in rehearsal. Kristin and I definitely have different backgrounds; also, during the off-season, I put more focus on other kinds of dancing. Of course, I always take ballet class, but I did more jazz and theater and even other kinds of fitness things that I wasn’t doing before that actually lend themselves more to the kind of choreography we’re doing to work on my strength. That’s what I needed to do: to put myself in better condition for the show and to feel stronger in it. It’s one thing to say, oh we’re going to do all this sharp choreography and have all this strength behind our movements, but if you do that and you’re moving really fast you’d be surprised with how strong you have to be. You can do hundreds and thousands of pliés and tendus and that’s not necessarily going to be effective in helping you with that strength.
Kristin: Alison’s technique is amazing; she has amazing control. But then on top of that, she has a genuine performance quality that’s beyond a smile.
Lisa: And she also has amazing musicality. Not every person can hear the music in the same way and pick up on things. Even within the Rockette world, it’s not like we’re doing, “One, two, three and four.”
Alison: I’m just trying to be as good as these guys.
Kristin: Having the sisters in rehearsals—and knowing that they work really hard—you don’t want to be the one sister…it’s true! [Laughs] I don’t think it’s like a weird competitive thing where you want to get your leg the highest, and it’s not like in life that I feel we come as a three. It’s not like that. But it’s that feeling if they can do it, I can do it, so I’d better pull up and give as much as they are. That’s always something I feel, especially on a day when I don’t have as much energy. If I was on the stage with them, I would want to feel I could dance next to them at any time.
Alison: Lisa and I are in the same cast. We have a few moments to look at each other during the show and that’s so reassuring. Whether you’re looking at your sister or at another dancer in the cast, it does help you get through. But I don’t know—I guess, for me, it’s like anyone you admire. Whether you’re someone who watched the Rockettes and wanted to become one; I wanted to be my sisters! They have amazing technique, but also their approach to the work is something that makes me kind of speechless. I admire how much I can tell that they love the work, and it’s in the smile or it’s in the way that they dance even, their dynamics. It’s inspiring to watch and then you want to go out there and not be the sister that can’t do it.
Lisa: It’s funny, because during our tech rehearsals, I was like, “Kristin, did I look like I was crazy? I felt like I was falling all over the place! What did that look like?” I wouldn’t go to somebody else in the cast and ask them.
Kristin: I saw Lisa perform with the ballet company and I saw her perform when she went to the cruise-ship shows, and a completely different personality has come out of her since she’s done all these things. She’s capable of being the more serious ballerina, but I’ve watched her in this show, and I can see how much joy it brings.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular is at Radio City Music Hall through Dec 30.