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Rockette-ing to Stardom 

Toni Krakora danced her way to her dream job.

The Rockettes get their kicks at the State, beginning Thursday.
  • The Rockettes get their kicks at the State, beginning Thursday.
For four years, Toni Krakora was a dancer in a flashy Las Vegas casino. Night after night, she performed alongside Madonna and Michael Jackson impersonators. It wasn't a bad gig, but not exactly Krakora's dream job. For years, the Mayfield Heights native had aspired to dance with the legendary Radio City Rockettes. She even auditioned for a spot in the 75-year-old company, but months passed, and her hopes faded amid the bright lights of Vegas.

When Krakora's call came, it wasn't from Radio City, but from her mom, hundreds of miles away on the East Coast. She said, "Radio City called. You have a job!" Krakora recalls. "I was completely flabbergasted. It was such a shock. I called everyone I knew, after 10 minutes of jumping up and down."

Krakora, who was 27 at the time, quickly packed her bags, left Madonna and Michael in the dust, and headed for the Big Apple to chase down her dream. Five years later, she is still in awe of the opportunity. "Words can't really describe it," she says. "It was an amazing thing. I'm very proud of what I do."

This week, Krakora and 18 of her leggy co-workers open a month-long series of holiday performances -- Radio City Christmas Spectacular -- at the State Theatre. The fast-paced, 90-minute show is indeed a spectacle of synchronization, with each kick and lunge honed to perfection during grueling seven-hour rehearsals.

Krakora, who began dancing at age three, is used to the rigors of membership in the world's most famous chorus line. When she auditioned in 1997, she was one of 300 wannabes trying out for 40 spots. "I just came in with the attitude of learning something new and challenging," she says. "Mentally, I was just in this state of being glad to be there."

Promoted to dance captain earlier this year, Krakora's main job now is making sure each move is executed flawlessly. "Basically, I keep the show clean. If anyone is injured or sick, I step in their spot." And, not surprisingly, dancing in perfect synchronicity is no small feat. "It's almost a science," says Krakora, who spends the group's rehearsals fixing out-of-sync arms and legs.

Although she typically puts in 12- and 14-hour days -- and could probably do the routines in her sleep -- she says she'll never grow tired of her life as a Rockette.

"It's a labor of love," she says. "I am very blessed. As long as my legs keep kicking, I'm going to stay with it."

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