In celebration of AAPI Month, Radio City Rockette Christine Sienicki shares her inspiring journey from her hometown dance studio to Radio City Music Hall.
I didn’t know it at the time, but one surefire way to convince your parents to put you in dance class was to constantly dance in front of the television and prevent everyone from watching! Born and raised in New Jersey, I started dancing at my hometown dance studio, Dance World Academy, at the age of six. Somehow, even at that early age, I knew that dance was always going to be a part of my life. I started taking ballet and tap and then progressively began taking classes in every genre I could. At nine years old, I had already started to participate in dance competitions and conventions all over the country. That really helped me to grow as a dancer while getting to meet a lot of new people from all over the country, some of whom I ended up dancing professionally with years down the road.
Throughout my childhood, I was so fortunate to live so close to New York City and be able to see so many shows from a very young age. My mom was born and raised in the Philippines and came to the U.S. after college. Leaving a place that is all you know, to start a new life, is not easy and I know I am the sole product of sacrifice and perseverance, which was a huge motivator for me as an individual and as a dancer. It taught me to always work hard and dream big. It showed me that any goal is attainable if you dedicate your time and energy. As a kid, I remember we had numerous dancers from the studio who graduated and moved on to do Broadway shows and even become Rockettes. These were all dancers that I aspired to be like growing up. We used to head into the city by bus to watch them perform, which was so inspiring! I specifically remember traveling in a huge pack during Christmastime and seeing the Rockettes live for the very first time at Radio City. I was in awe! But what makes that memory even more special was that I got to see someone that I knew and looked up to perform on the Great Stage. Little did I know that years later, I would be dancing with that very same person on that very same stage.
After high school, I enrolled at Rutgers University to further my dance education. When I turned 18, a friend asked me to accompany her to the open call audition at Radio City. At the time, I didn’t think I was even tall enough to audition because growing up, every Rockette I knew was 5’10! But I said I would go for the experience. I remember waiting in a line that wrapped around Radio City and was over a block long. We went up in groups and learned a jazz combo, a tap combo and a kick combo. It lasted for two days. I couldn’t believe it when I got the call that I had gotten the job. It was such a whirlwind experience and yet, that audition day feels like it was only yesterday.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 21 years since and I’m still kicking! I learned right away that being a Rockette would be one of the hardest jobs I would ever have. I grew up rehearsing for crazy amounts of hours on top of school and homework, so I was used to working incredibly hard, but nothing would compare to being a Rockette. Reflecting back on that first year, I remember rehearsing for six hours a day, six days a week and falling asleep on the subway ride home every day from sheer exhaustion. But oh, how it was worth it.
I remember the very moment I stepped onto the Great Stage and looked out into the audience for the first time – and the feeling I had. Over the years, I appreciated my AAPI background more and more, especially as a dancer, and was able to embrace that what made me different was what made me special. I am proud of my beautiful identity and I feel so privileged to represent the AAPI community on the line because there aren’t many of us. I hope that it helps showcase to young dancers of AAPI descent that you belong here too. Growing up as a young Asian-American, I didn’t have many professional dancers to look up to, so I hope to be that representation for all the young AAPI dancers who are aspiring Rockettes. I want the future generations to feel like it is truly an attainable goal.
All of my hard work leading up to that special moment is truly unforgettable. Seeing all the smiling faces looking back at me. It’s something I look forward to year after year. There is nothing quite like dancing on the Radio City stage, especially when it’s with your best friends and sisters!