We wanted to take the time to put the spotlight on one of the most successful dancers who has come out of Fitzsimmons Dance Factory- Kristin Altfather! She was nice enough to let us pick her brain and share some memories from FDF as well as inform us on some of her amazing experiences from her dance career.
Memories from FDF
What year did you graduate from FDF? 1991- I'm old!
What is your first memory in a performance? So many memories but they are all blurred together. But I do remember doing a tap duet with Susie Shelhammer to "I love to walk in the Rain" We wore baby blue and had umbrellas with a white lace trim.
What drew you to dance? I simply loved it.
What is your funniest memory dancing in class or on stage? Here are 2. One from FDF and the other was in my professional career. The first of them happened while still in high school dancing at FDF. One of my friend's wig fell forward and she had to finish the dance with a blond wig around her chin. It looked like a very full beard. Lesson to be learned... Pin all your hats and wigs, then pin some more.
The second was not funny at the time necessarily, but here it is. I was the Dance Captain and swing for the Christmas Spectacular and during intermission our tallest Rockette was having issues with her knee so we decided it was best she not continue on. I was her swing so in just a few minutes I put on my costume, touched up my makeup and checked my Show Book to glance at her track which included her numbers, depths, travels, and any other pertinent information I would need. The second act started with the Rockettes on stage and it was 2 numbers back to back "Holiday Season" into "Bizazz" without leaving the stage. All went fantastic with the first number and in the second number it was smooth sailing until.. we got to the kickline. I was directly next to Santa center stage with a 4' tall candy cane in one hand and the other behind Santa kicking when all of a sudden I came out of my shoe, and fell to the ground (I can still hear the audience gasp). I bounced back up and on a broken ankle and I finished the last 4 kicks and then into our final pose. It wasn't over yet though. I still had to get off stage and now that meant we were 1 Rockette short for the rest of the show. So, hopping around on one foot I re-staged the next number to all the Rockettes as they did their quick change. As I look back it is one of my favorite memories.
What dance was your inspiration growing up? As a little girl I loved watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies on rainy days so they had quite an impact on me. However, as I got older and in college I loved studying Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse.
Do you remember the color of your first costume or a description? I remember a few and not sure of the order but there was an all white satin leotard with silver sequins decorating the top. I wore it for ballet with a tutu that doubled as sort of a bustle for tap. I think I had a crown on top too.
What is your favorite part of coming to FDF and Rochester? Everything, there is nothing like going home!
Where did you go to college and what was your major? I went to Park Point College in Pittsburgh, PA with a major in dance concentration in Jazz.
What next? Give me a brief synopsis of what you did in college/after/how you got involved in Rockettes, etc.? While in college I performed in a couple of student showcases and I was fortunate enough to be picked for a performance choreographed by a Frank Chavas of River North. During college summers I danced in a magic show as a magician assistant at a couple of theme parks (Seabreeze included). Out of college I danced on cruise ships and performed in regional musical theatre shows around the country. Eventually I moved to LA and danced in movies, television, and modeled / danced and dance captained numerous industrial shows both in the States and abroad. In a visit to see family in Vegas I booked a dance job at MGM Grand in a show called EFX where I learned; the Spanish Web, the Swinging Trapeze, how to juggle, and a little Irish stepping. It was there in Vegas that I learned about the Rockete audition and flew to LA for it. I was bi-coastal for about 5 years when I decided to move back to NYC where I continued to do regional theatre and more Rockette work. In between performances I did and still do stand-in work for TV actresses and teach master classes. I feel so blessed to have some pretty amazing experiences, most of them alongside my fellow Rockettes. Some of my favorites include going to President Bush Jr. inauguration (we were unable to perform because of the weather), Dancing on the Ellen Show, Today Show, Dancing with the Stars, at Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, the Life Ball Charity event in Austria with Diane Von Fuerstenberg, an Oprah event with Hugh Jackman in which he called me "Darlin,'" and the dozen or so times I've gone to a children's hospital or worked with needy children to spread Holiday cheer.
How do you think dancing at FDF prepared you for your future? I have thought about this question in the past and I think in my classes we really did talk about the importance of the details of the choreography and spatial awareness. I was also grateful that my teachers also continued to study and take classes themselves. They were constantly evolving as teachers and therefore I was evolving as a dancer. That also taught me to never become a complacent. That dancing was just like anything else, there's always room for improvement.
I heard you got married, congratulations! What's up next for you? I did retire from performing full time but that doesn't mean I might not do a gig or two if it's right. Now that I'm married I do prefer to not take that many jobs away from home performing for long periods of time but I am still very much involved with the dance world. Before retiring I began judging for Showstopper Dance Competition and I have since then moved on to mostly announcing for the company. I am also so grateful for the continued work Radio City has offered me and will continue to work with them on more of a management side of things.
What is the most recent song played on your iPod? A Rockette show song because I taught a class.
What's your favorite...
TV Show: Modern Family is up there! Movie Raiders of the Lost Ark!, The Fugitive
Broadway Show: Grand Hotel- one of the first ones I remember seeing
Dancer: Fred Astaire
Artists: Degas- for obvious reasons
Season: All except winter for more than a month
Food Ice cream: More specifically Friendly's Reeces Peanut Buttercup (Superzie)
Travel Spot: Mexico or Italy. It's a toss up
And lastly, what advice can you give to our dancers? Follow your dreams. If you really love dancing and want to make a career out of it, you can. It's not easy but work hard, pay attention, stay true to who you are, be respectful to everyone, and remember to be thankful you found something you love to do.
Thank you again, Kristin for answering our questions! And Happy Belated Birthday!