200 high kicks per show for Rockette Christine Sienicki
By Cristina DC Pastor
When Christine Sienicki was a little girl, she watched a friend perform as a young boy at the Rockettes’ Easter Show at Radio City Music Hall. A dance student at the time, she was mesmerized by the Rockettes’ synchronized movements, the variety of techniques not to mention the radiant costumes.
“I was amazed and instantly fell in love with their dancing,” she said.
From that moment on, she learned to ballet, tap and jazz with gusto, focused on one day becoming a Rockette. It’s been 12 years since she joined New York’s unique dance company and nothing is slowing down the talented Rutgers graduate and only child of Elizabeth Ramos and Peter Sienicki, Jr. of Clifton, New Jersey. Christine’s Filipina mother is a chemical engineer and her father with Slovak, Czech and Polish roots is a retired social worker who has served in Vietnam. Christine is also a commercial model whose promos have appeared in various fashion magazines, such as Vanity Fair and Esquire.
As one of the Rockettes, the ever exuberant Christine goes through a grueling six-days-a-week practice. In their heads, they’re probably chanting ‘precision, precision, precision’ so that those “eye-high leg kicks” turn out nothing less than perfect and pretty.
In the following interview with The FilAm, Christine shares some behind-the-scenes details behind the Rockettes enigma. Their art of dance we have all been in awe, but what makes a Rockette a special kind of New York icon we’re all curious to know.
TF: How did you master those leg kicks?
CS: It takes a lot of hard work and practice! We do around 200 kicks per show. We rehearse six days a week for six hours a week so that we can be as precise as possible.
TF: How did you get in?
CS: This is my 12th year as a Rockette and every year is better than the last! I auditioned when I was 18 and the rest is history. The audition process is very rigorous and can last multiple days. It is very important to be proficient in all genres of dance especially ballet, tap and jazz.
TF: What was your audition like?
CS: I’ll never forget my audition. It was at Radio City. There were hundreds of girls lined around the Music Hall eagerly waiting to go inside. We were brought in in groups and learned a jazz combo and then cuts were made. Then the next combo we learned was tap. Whoever was chosen from that came back for another round the next day and did both a jazz and tap combo as well as a kick combination.
TF: I’m sure your mom is very proud of you. Does she invite her friends, family to watch your show?
CS: My mother is extremely proud of my success, as is my father. Being from New Jersey, I am lucky to have so many of my family and friends be able to watch me perform at Radio City since they are so close.
TF: How big is the group?
CS: There are 36 Rockettes on stage at one time and we also have four understudies called swings, just in case someone gets sick or injured. I feel so lucky to be a part of this legendary group and make so many lifelong friends. They’re like sisters to me.
CS: There aren’t any other Filipinos on the line but we do have two other Japanese women in the other cast.
TF: What is the racial mix? What about this supposed policy of closing its doors on African American or minority women in the beginning? When did that policy change?
CS: The Rockettes represent a diverse group of women who come from all over the U.S. as well as different cultural backgrounds. The Rockettes have always been seen as strong female role models through our inspirational attributes, unparalleled style and classic glamour.
TF: What do you do in the off season?
CS: We are fortunate enough to do many other events, TV shows, movies and print in our off season. I also do many other dancing, acting and modeling gigs as well. Many girls go to school or have different careers in the off season as well.
TF: Is there a retirement age? What age would be considered “old”?
CS: There actually is not a retirement age. As long as you are healthy and can still do those “eye high kicks” then you can still be a Rockette.
TF: How do you see yourself post-Rockettes? Is acting or choreography a natural progression?
CS: I am not sure where my career will take me after the Rockettes. Luckily, I already do so many things aside from the Rockettes during my off season. I do some acting and enjoy that and I also choreograph routines so those are natural progressions.
TF: Any advice to young FilAms girls who may have aspirations to be a Rockette?
CS: The best advice I could give to young people is to always work really hard, never give up and keep smiling.