The Rockettes are New York City royalty during the holiday season, starring in Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular. Onstage, they’re a marvel of precision coordination, a product of six-hour daily rehearsals and a bond as strong as sisters.

But a very talented few among the team of 80 Rockettes get to perform in that famous kickline alongside their actual sisters. We spoke with Alison and Kristin Jantzie from Canada, and Katherine and Sarah Daniels from Michigan who are not just new to the Rockettes — it’s their first Christmas in New York.

radio city rockettes christmas spectacular 2018

The veteran Rockettes: Following in her big sister’s dance steps

“I grew up in a really small town in western Canada, so the idea of becoming a professional dancer or a Rockette was probably one of the most far-fetched dreams you could have,” says Alison Jantzie, who’s starting her eighth season in the Christmas Spectacular.

 

She credits watching her two older sisters pursue their dance careers with keeping her going after not finding success immediately out of high school. But in fact, her sister and fellow Rockette Kristin also faced an early disappointment.

“About the age of 12 is when my training got very serious, I decided I wanted to be in a ballet company and there would be nothing else for me,” Kristin recalls. The schools had a different idea: “They said, ‘You’re not quite the right body type or shape.’ I think that disappointment actually made me pushed myself harder, so when I auditioned for the Rockettes and started doing this work it was really exciting that I’d found my match in terms of dance.”

radio city rockettes christmas spectacular 2018

Alison turned to college to refine her skills as a musical theater major, a path that felt “comfortable.” But that changed the night she saw her sister as a Rockette in a touring production of the Christmas Spectacular in Detroit. “I remember just sitting in the audience, crying my eyes out because she just looked so stunning,” she recalls. “You watch someone grow up and you admire them your entire life, and then you see her up there living her dream and you think, ‘Well, she’s doing it, I think I gotta give it a try.’”

It took her a few years for her to get the courage to audition in 2011, but with her sister’s advice — “Listen to the details” — and wearing a pair of her tap shoes for luck, Alison earned a spot from among 500 hopefuls.

Growing up together and pushing each other in the way sisters do helped prepare them for the rigors of life as a Rockette, says Kristin. Alison is grateful to have her for another reason, too: “It is so reassuring and she’s so centered as a person, nothing fazes her. It’s nice to have someone who knows you and has been there a few years and tell you, ‘Alison, breathe.’”

radio city rockettes christmas spectacular 2018

The new Rockettes: Living their dream at 18 years old

Katherine and Sarah Daniels became Rockettes just two months before opening night of the 2018 Christmas Spectacular. “It’s a lot, but I wouldn’t expect anything less of this company,” says Katherine of life as a Rockette so far. “It’s such a special process though because it’s the holiday season, and just to be part of this legacy is an honor, so I just feel lucky and blessed to be with my sister.”

“Especially being with my sister,” says Sarah, “I’ve always felt more comfortable in a team setting, and [being a Rockette] feels totally natural.”

Growing up in the suburbs outside of Detroit, Michigan, the twin sisters were home-schooled by their mom, who was also their dance teacher. Their days often stretched from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but they’ve known their goal since seeing the Rockettes in Detroit at age 8 and being impressed by their athleticism, coordination and teamwork.

“It was a really intense situation growing up, but I knew it was going to be worth it because I get to do this at 18 years old,” says Katherine. “I think it all paid off.”

radio city rockettes christmas spectacular 2018

They auditioned twice, once in April and again in August when they were hired. Then, they had just two weeks to pack before starting their new lives in New York.

Rehearsals have been intense, not to mention adjusting to the pace of life in the city. “It’s so so different, going from suburban life in Michigan to a big city, big job,” says Katherine. “I knew I was always preparing for it, and it feels so right that I never looked back. I barely remember who I was because this process changes you a lot, yet it feels so natural.”

radio city rockettes christmas spectacular 2018

Among everything that’s new around them, there is one way the Daniels sisters are on the same footing as the rest of their sisters. Being in the Rockettes is to be part of a living legacy: Several numbers in the Christmas Spectacular, including the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and Rag Dolls, have been performed by every Rockette since the group was founded in 1933. But this year, they’ve added a new finale called Christmas Lights, which includes 100 drones flying in formation along with the dancers onstage.

“We have so many traditional numbers that it’s very rare we get to create a brand new scene,” says Katherine. And to get to have her sister along makes the experience even better: “It’s awesome to get to see her live her dream, because it’s very special that we even had the same dream to begin with. We’re a team inside of a larger team, and I think that’s why we blend so well inside this company.”

The 2018 Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes is playing now through Jan. 1, 2019. Tickets are $46-$599 at rockettes.com

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