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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
Arts & Music

Straz dance instructor got her kicks as a Rockette

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When Kelly King saw the famed Radio City Rockettes dance for the first time in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade she was mesmerized.

“It was like watching beautiful, dancing Miss Americas,” says King, 34. “I wanted to be (a Rockette) so bad. That was my goal, my dream, to be a Rockette.”

King’s dream became reality. Six months after heading to New York — and one audition later — the 18-year-old became a Rockette.

The St. Petersburg resident now teaches contemporary dance at the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center.

Although King doesn’t teach Rockette choreography, she says the years of intensive training with the precision dance team has helped her become a more disciplined and versatile dancer.

“When you perform next to 36 women on stage for so many years you become a product of perfection,” she says. “Everything you do has to be perfect and precise.”

In separate “Just for Kicks” classes, King teaches Broadway and commercial-style dance to students grades seven through 12 and to adults.

King spent 12 years kicking up her heels as part of the legendary Rockettes dance troupe. She still recalls the grueling rehearsals.

“They were very intense, six hours a day, six days a week,” says King, who attended Gibbs Performing Arts High School in Pinellas County. “When your body wants to pucker out, you just have to push yourself and keep on going.”

But the applause and the smiling faces of little girls in the audience made it all worthwhile, she adds.

King later danced in national Broadway tours of “Fosse,” “Anything Goes,” and toured with “In Concert with Gregory Hines.” She also served 11 years as resident choreographer at the Broadway Theatre Project at the University of South Florida.

King says she’s honored to have been part of a long and storied American holiday tradition such as the Rockettes. And not much has changed since she danced in the Christmas Spectacular. The costumes are still beautiful, the women still look like Miss America and the kicks are still eye-high.

“I was a part of Americana,” she says. “(The Rockettes) are a true holiday tradition and I was a part of it.”

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