Archive for May, 2011


Howdy folks! Below is a list of some of the lovely invites forwarded to me throughout the week. The shows below are a good smattering of what Las Vegas has to offer, and most of them are cheaper than a movie.

“Drag! The Musical,” May 27 – June 5, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Onyx Theatre (953 E. Sahara, #16). This live musical features local drag legends Ginger Grant, Syren Vaughn, and Vivianne Dumonde, and performers from Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York City who will, according to the Facebook page, “blow your skirt up!”
The show is written by Jamie Morris (“Mommie Queerest,” “Silence of the Clams”) and Christopher Kenney, a world-renowned entertainer that can be seen hosting “Zumanity” by Cirque du Soleil.

“Rawkahula! Car/Burlesque Show,” May 31 at 7 p.m. and April 1 at midnight at Mr. D’s Sports Bar (1810 S. Rainbow Blvd.) The show is organized by Mutt and Jeff’s Classics and Goldie DeBloomers; check out the cars beginning at 7 p.m. (with the Ham The Astro Monkey retro trailer included) and the burlesque babes will be rolling out at 9 p.m., featuring Goldie DeBloomers, Miss Karla Joy, Yinzie Steel and Cherry BellaNova. The night will include a raffle and food and Hawaiian or sailor attire is encouraged.

“Karnival!,” Wednesday, April 1 at 8 p.m. at the Onyx Theatre (953 E. Sahara, #16). This well-established Vegas gem is a monthly themed variety show that usually has a few nice surprises in store.

“The Dixie Evans Burlesque Show,” June 3 and 4 at the Plaza Hotel and Casino (1 S. Main St). The two days will be packed with burlesque performances, a competition and “the world’s only live monster wrestling spectacle.” Check out the page here for event details.

“Pandemic! A Killer Flu-sical,” Friday, June 3 to June 11 at the Las Vegas Little Theatre (3920 Schiff Drive). “Cover your mouth and wash your hands because Pandemic! A Killer Flu-sical is infecting the 2011 Las Vegas Fringe Festival! Full of satire, social commentary and fear mongering, this new musical comedy quarantines the audience in a New York City hospital at the height of the swine flu emergency.” The show features local performers alongside Derek Keeling, who has credits from Broadway. Show times are as follows: Saturday, June 4 at 10:30 p.m., Sunday, June 5 at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, June 9 at 8:15 p.m. and Saturday, June 11 at 5:30 p.m.

“Burlesque Bizarre!–The Weird, The Wild, and the WONDERFUL!,” Sunday, June 5 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Bikini Bar (3355 W. Spring Mountain Rd.). The Grindhouse Burlesque crew will be joined by guest performer Kyle Marlett, the debut of a new Grindhouse girl and dancers Lacey Moon, Rosalita Nikita, Strawberry Grenades, Porcelain Vanity and Caramel D’Lite.

“The Burly-Q Revue,” Thursday, June 9 from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Daddy Mac’s (920 N. Green Valley Parkway). “Featuring burlesque performances by the breathtaking Lou Lou Roxy. the Mistress of Mayhem Brianna Belladonna, the virtuous vixen Lacey Moon and the alluring Miss Scissors!” The show will be emceed by the fabulous Miss Miranda Glamour, who will command the mic between festivities.

Mark your calendars, cool kids. It’s going to be a wild week.

Hey gang, your author here. I am addressing you not from behind a camera or across a notepad but from a smallish resort town in northern Utah called Park City — some of you skiing peeps might have heard of it.

I’m not up here to ski, however, and not just because it’s the tail-end of the season. (Although one resort might break a record this year by being open past the fourth of July, which blows my mind a little bit.) I scored a sweet social media editing internship with a company called Channel Signal and they’re based out of a snazzy office lodge (note: not office building) in Park City.

So I’ll be shivering away my summer in this mountainous place and getting some excellent experience to boot. My lovely blog, in the meantime, will probably be expanding its scope of coverage and becoming more general in what is reported. However, if there is a Las Vegas-based event going on, please let me know and I will promote it as usual.

Keep dancing in the meantime. I’ll be back in August, pen and camera in hand.

Las Vegas is a city of recreations, shamelessly mixing icons from other places into a veritable soup of sensationalism that has a flavor all its own. The things that are unique to the city tend to be unflattering, adorning the streets in the form of yard-long drinks or sun-scorched tourists with fanny-packs.

One Vegas import is keeping it real, though. Disney’s “The Lion King,” directed by Julie Taymor and onstage at Mandalay Bay until December of this year, is one of those blessed hybrids gracing our sun-stricken valley. Even a drag queen in zebra-striped tights would have a difficult time keeping up with life-size puppets, arresting dancing (with choreography by Garth Fagan) and vocals that are positively captivating. These histrionic elements, coupled with the familiarity of the storyline and the toe-tapping songs themselves (courtesy of Elton John and Time Rice), make for a show that will be sorely missed in seven months’ time.

The plot follows the lion Simba from cub-hood to king-hood, accompanied by the bird Zazu (Patrick Kerr) and future queen Nala (Nia Ashleigh and Lauryn Hardy). The performance from nose to tail runs more than two hours long, with an intermission midway through and only a few omissions from the original. Although this doesn’t follow the Vegas-show template, the loftier ticket price and established reputation make this decision a shrewd one.

The first act sees a devious uncle Scar (Thom Sesma) orchestrating the death of King Mufasa (Derrick Williams), falsely implicating young Simba (Tim Johnson Jr. and Zaire Adams) and tricking him into exile. In the second act, Nala (Kissy Simmons), a regal adult by this point, hunts down Simba (Jelani Remy) in an effort to save the Pride Lands that are being destroyed under Scar’s rule.

Supporting characters, including Scar’s pantheon of mangy hyenas and Simba’s hilarious, “no worries” sidekicks Timon (Aaron De Jesus) and Pumba (Adam Kozlowski), are as engaging as the main cast. The stage, a masterpiece in itself, also adds to the ambience by seamlessly transitioning from a breezy grassland to an elephant graveyard to a canyon rife with stampeding wildebeests. Two percussionists situated in the house are the cherries on top and the effect is absolutely engrossing.

The running time might be daunting for munchkins, but the theatrical quality of “The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay is top-notch. For more information about the show, follow the link here. Tickets are available here — get them before they migrate back to the Savannah.

Two companies rife with young talent competently mixed contemporary and classical dance with exuberant energy in a joint performance on May 15 at the “Viva ELVIS” theater at Aria. “A Choreographers’ Showcase,” now in its fourth year, showcased the ambitions and abilities of artists from Cirque du Soleil and Nevada Ballet Theatre in a performance that filled the house — and the enormous stage — respectably.

Each piece was choreographed by a dancer from one of the companies (with the exception of “Pra,” pronounced “prey,” by Rommel Pacson, a dancer who does physical therapy work for Cirque). Each choreographer stepped forward to introduce his or her work and the insight from the artists aided the comprehension of some experimental concepts.

The diversity of the show was encouraging. “Pra,” mentioned above, was a flexed-foot, modern-influenced and highly athletic depiction of pursuit. “Glo,” by Cirque artist Vanessa Convery, incorporated film to fully express the emotional breadth of the message of the piece, which was spoked with eye-catching partnering and incandescent interactions.

Story-telling was, pleasantly, in no short supply. “Vindicate,” a piece by NBT artist Krista Baker, told the story of the complicated aspects of life in a dance studio. The ensemble-work and technical aspects in the piece were wonderful and the honesty in the narrative offered a fresh take on a familiar atmosphere.

Cirque artist Greg Sample’s “Pressing Play” also revolved around a relatable central concept: hitting pause on adult responsibilities and pressing play on the spontaneous discoveries of childhood. The number featured distinct character movement that was performed well to quirky music. This combination fit the mission statement of the work and elicited giggles and warm-fuzzies from the audience.

Abstract concepts were bravely explored in pieces like “The Vertical Hold” by NBT’s Ashleigh Doede and “Dreams of Hope” by Hanifa Jackson and Israel Gutierrez of Cirque. Emotions ran high in both and the fortitude of the performers was commendable. “The Vertical Hold” was a tense, brooding embodiment of conflict and stalemates. Domineering and driving energy piloted “Dreams of Hope,” a strong jazz number with crazy partnering and the only choreographic collaboration in the show.

Perhaps the most literal interpretation of an idea came from Cirque’s Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar with “Making Sense of Movement.” The choreographer introduced his piece with anecdotes about dancing alongside performers that were blind or deaf but could still interpret music. The number was created with this in mind; each dancer bore a red mask, worn alternatively over eyes or mouth to simulate sightlessness and silence. Although the piece had a sinister ring to it at the start, the lingering message exonerated the limitless possibilities of having a fully functioning body.

“Cue: Bow,” a piece by Kalin Morrow of NBT, began the show with a plucky and inventive vibe that was refreshingly light-hearted. Childish narratives and characters shone through and spoke well to the audience. “Ascension,” by NBT’s Leigh Hartley, used ballet- and lyrical-tinged choreography to tell the story of a hospital patient that, by the end of the piece, traded the hospital gown for an angelic dress. The classical note kept things in perspective and the story was satisfyingly straightforward.

Mary LaCroix, an artist with NBT, choreographed “Apres Vous,” which landed late in the second act. The number had a thread of personal experience in it, as LaCroix admitted early on, and this contributed a nice veracity. The narrative traveled from a fractured relationship to a gritty and determined coda, concluding finally with a mildly indignant resolution.

Effervescent exploration and collaboration made the show not only remarkably diverse but highly enjoyable. Not everything was as polished as it might have been with full rehearsals, but that wasn’t the point. It was encouraging to see the power and ambition of these performers and, with any luck, this annual concert will continue for many years to come.

“A Choreographers’ Showcase” will be performed at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 22 at the “Viva ELVIS” theater at Aria. Tickets are available here, and proceeds contribute to an outreach program that has allowed more than 3600 students to attend a special performance of the show.

Guest choreographers Miguel Perez and Zane Booker joined forces with LVCDT’s Bernard Gaddis for the company’s spring concert on May 6-8 at the West Las Vegas Library Theatre. The program featured four pieces, one from each of the guest artists and two, including the anticipated frog-work “Phib,” from Gaddis.

Perez’s “Emergence” was a twining, full-bodied and expressive piece that seemed to sponge up emotion and release it when called upon. Lovely adage work from the girls and a playful duet lightened the somewhat staid tone and contemporary choreography spiked with classical lines furthered this dichotomy. The glimmer of individuals throughout the piece made the movement simultaneously surreal and relatable. Effective use of music and light lent a feeling of time passing and the result was a sobering but optimistic experience for the audience.

Gaddis’ “Sacrifus,” a study in choice and consequence, began the second act with a compelling male duet and a kind of visual percussion that the company does well. Many of the interactions between the dancers built to the charged third movement of the piece, which culminated in a galvanic stand-off between the men and women. Throughout the number ran an undercurrent of complex relationships, all blanketed by a burning energy and ferocious partnering. Looking for the human moments in the piece was one of the pleasures.

Two pieces capitalized on a healthy measure of novelty. “Portraits,” by Booker, was part period-piece to sax and brass and part edgy, contemporary concert dance. Recitations of literature introduced each character in the small cast and gave the audience an idea of what they were in for; robust movement followed shortly and gave these artistic greats some context. (Such figures as Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, Gloria Steinem and Byron Hurt were represented.)

The choreography itself was busy and detailed, a fact the dancers took mostly in stride. This kind of number meshes well with the artistic strength of the dancers and the confidence that emanated from each was gratifying to see.

“Phib” hopped into the final slot of the show as a fantastic summation and a number that holds great promise for outreach programs. Giggles from the audience began right away, but it was clear that the dancers took this frog business very seriously. A watery, reedy feel set the stage for splayed-legged rolls and ballet-mistress-approved grand plies. The choreography itself was interesting in that the character movement rang distantly of funk in the precisely timed isolations and a sweet duet midway through the piece lent some emotional depth. Kudos also go to Gaddis for resisting the temptation of too much silliness, because the piece certainly benefited from it.

LVCDT has a distinct genre that they dance well and this concert showcased this effectively. There is also something about seeing a posse of frogs applauding their artistic director that is not to be missed.

Neither is the fall concert series. LVCDT will be performing “Vespers” by choreography icon Ulysses Dove on November 4-6. Keep an eye on their website here for more information.

So it’s been about six weeks, give or take, since I started my aerial endeavors and first shinnied up a strand of silk. Things are coming more naturally now; I’m not sore for days afterward and I can climb a decent distance above the ground before getting that fluttery, good-Lord-the-floor-is-far-away feeling. My brain seems to have caught up with all of this wrap, knot and lock business and I can go through a few basics before getting tired or confused, or both.

Mad hammock skills!

I do, however, still spend a lot of time tired. And confused. But, ironically, I’m usually having an awesome time despite muscles that twitch involuntarily and “what did she just do??” moments. As it turns out, being airborne is fun and addictive. Our non-human primate pals might be onto something with all that brachiating they do.

Skills, predictably, have gotten harder as we’ve gone along. An interesting thing about silks is that tricks tend to build on either basic wraps or one another. For example, a hip key is the beginning of a lot of moves, including those impressive drops and falls that circus smarty-pantses do. A figure-eight knot, which can be tied around one foot or two separate feet, allows the aerialist to do all kinds of fancy stuff, like splits and inverted poses.This modular quality of the discipline means that, once you’ve got some basics down, you start progressing more quickly.

A close cousin to silks is the hammock, which, as the name suggests, is a looped piece of fabric instead of a purely vertical one. This is also an apparatus that has been added into our weekly repertoire. The fabric is the same, but maneuvering is a different animal and requires separate techniques from silks.

Perplexed looks generally begins with the pullover, which is essentially a hips-over-face movement that gets a person into the thing (think of a gymnast pulling themselves up and over a horizontal bar.) From this point, you generally work from a seated or fully reclined position. The loop makes inversions easier and knots a little less prolific. Strength elements, however, remain the same: your forearms and fingers will be dying after an hour on either.

Two figure-eight knots + overly long hamstrings = a hmm, that's not the trick I showed you ...

Despite snazzy new moves, the basics of aerial work have remained the same. Practice is important, and this can be difficult when you don’t have a 40-foot-long strand of fabric handy. Things don’t always go as planned … as the photo above demonstrates. Patience is a good thing to keep on hand. Enthusiasm is advantageous, and nothing quite beats that moment of stillness that descends right before a stunt.

For more information about aerial training, check out the Hayden Productions Vegas website.

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A bevy of award-winning burlesque babes, many of whom have performed internationally, hit the stage at Boomers Bar on April 30 for Cha Cha Velour’s monthly show. The evening was conducted by the magician called Bizarro, a charmingly self-deprecating low-baller with  flair for making the un-funny quite comedic.

Cha Cha Velour, Mini Tonka, Anita Cookie, Clams Casino and Penny Starr Jr. convened for an evening that showcased their collective talents famously. Penny Starr Jr. rocked a gorilla suit before stripping to a red and black corset affair, but the monkey motif returned at the end with the appearance of a banana, suggestively nibbled. A drink was the focus of one of Anita Cookie’s acts, which featured an inner “should I or shouldn’t I?” debate about whether to drink it or not (she did, eventually, and with gusto).

Clams Casino’s hilarious rendition of an overeager tennis player was commended by the audience and Mini Tonka’s mechanical parody of a robotic creature received similar approval. Cha Cha Velour strutted in style and exuded experience through two classic burlesque numbers that had the audience roaring by the end.

The theme for the performance seemed to be diversity and out-of-the-box-ness, as evidenced by nontraditional numbers executed with incredible confidence. The spread of awards from events like the Burlesque Hall of Fame pageant and the New York Burlesque Festival was impressive and, ostensibly, well-deserved. For this show, “entertaining” would have been a serious understatement.

Even Bizarro, self-defined “Anthrax of Magic,” represented a quirky riff on what Vegas locals have seen so often. His bits involved the likes of Smurfs in Hell, gently used sex dolls, tie-dye duct tape and balloon-swallowing (of the long, then variety, which was appropriately vulgar). Even a botched card trick, whether intentional or not, yielded a feigned “so sue me” belligerence from Bizarro and appreciate laughs from the audience. His standard “shut up” quip brought a contagious immaturity to the show that made it that much more enjoyable.

Novelty and props weren’t the only engines behind the acts, however. Anita Cookie performed in little more than an overcoat, which she playfully rearranged with a teasing smile. Mini Tonka ended one of her sketches with two miniature records adhered in strategic places and Penny Starr Jr. performed a tribute to her grandmother (yes, really) that featured coy kisses and crotchetiness. Clams Casino, clad in bright pink and yellow, pointed and shook her proverbial tail-feathers exuberantly.

The $10-$12 ticket price automatically filed this show under “incredible steal” and proved what many burlesque dancers in Las Vegas have been pronouncing for awhile. Burlesque is not a has-been, and it isn’t just girls dancing in their underwear. If anything will reform this image, it will be performances like this.

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