“What about Vegas? I hear that’s a good place for a dancer to find work.” My mother said one afternoon while I danced around the kitchen table, practicing pirouettes in my socks. “Ugh, Mom- that’s SO not me!” I rolled my eyes as the typical 16-year old-know-it-all. I always pictured myself dancing in a modern company, since I eventually realized my hopes of becoming a serious ballerina were dashed from an injury I sustained from my pointe shoes, and the fact that I wasn’t ALREADY in a ballet company. With that in mind, I had it all planned out. I would cut off all my hair, embrace parallel position and get grounded to the earth in my newfound love of modern dance.
As college years came and went, I evolved once again and chose jazz dance as my major. I started to catch on. This thing called dance is a constant evolution: you have to be adaptable, versatile, and flexible. You also have to find your niche, and let go of any preconceived ideas about yourself. The same thing applied to my eventual and surprise move to Las Vegas. After graduation, I was planning my hopeful escape and move to NYC, when out of the blue I got a call from a production assistant in Las Vegas. Not to age myself, eh hem… but this was back in the days when you could still snail mail your black and white headshot and resume, which I had done the week before, not expecting anything to come of it.
“So, can you be here tomorrow?” he asks.
“Well the airports are closed, we just had a blizzard. How about the day after tomorrow?” I hear myself say.
Crap. I’m moving to Vegas?!
I packed 2 suitcases and was on a plane less than 48 hours later. The night I arrived, I sat in the audience and watched the first show, and by the second show, I was on stage, assisting the magician by walking a very temperamental and erratic Dalmatian on stage. “How did I get here?!” I thought. That night, I had nowhere to live and no car to drive. I was briefly introduced to one of our stage technicians, loaded my bags into the back of his pick up truck, and moved into his spare bedroom.
Nice to meet ya. I hope you’re not an ax murderer.
It was a chance worth taking and so it was the introduction to my career as a Las Vegas dancer. The days were always sunny, false eyelashes and hairpieces became a staple in my every day look, and fishnets, not tights, were now spilling out of my dance bag. I soon realized that I had to retire my lucky leotard with the pink polka dots, as auditions in this town were quite different than being in NYC. I quickly learned that in this town, I needed to show my midriff at auditions, and God forbid if I wasn’t wearing fishnets and heels! One of my first auditions, I was surprised that everyone rolled in maybe 10-15 minutes prior, sleepy from a late night of shows. This was a huge difference to auditioning in NYC, where sometimes I stood in the freezing cold, or pouring down rain for hours, sometimes never even making it through the door. I remember thinking I had discovered the dance world’s best kept secret.
Having multiple talent agents, as opposed to one, was another surprise I encountered. Because Nevada is a “right to work” state, talent is not forced to join a union, or sign exclusively to one management company. I found this to increase the chances of booking extra jobs, as well as boosting options and allowing me to take the jobs with higher rates.
Another bonus was affordable living costs. I could actually afford to live in a spacious apartment or house, with a walk in closet, and a pool. I could drive to work in 15 minutes, yet was far enough from the Strip so I could live a somewhat normal life. I had experienced urban living, and although I sometimes missed it, I eventually became one with the desert. I loved my view of the Red Rock canyon and found myself missing it when I would leave town.
Other perks included access and invitations to VIP tables, meeting and sometimes sharing the stage with celebrities. As a young 20-something-year old, this was pretty exciting in the beginning. It eventually wore off as I became a veteran in town, and things like, “Ugh, no I don’t want to leave the dressing room to meet David Spade, I’d rather eat my power berries and read my book”, or “Is everyone going to hang out with Justin Timberlake at TAO tonight? Ugh, I guess I’ll go.” came out of my mouth.
I learned that Vegas was a place a dancer could work day, evening and all night long if they wanted to. At one point, I was lucky to be working a daytime magic show (2 shows a day) as well as a night show with the Sirens of TI (4 shows a night), and sometimes gigging afterwards. There were many moments, while hiding in a small enclosed space listening to a tiger’s breath, or swinging off a pirate ship, that I thought to myself, “Am I really doing this as my JOB?!.” I think those are the moments that are the most gratifying in a dancer’s career: when you’re having a blast and it doesn’t feel like work.
I wasn’t dancing on Broadway, but I knew that I had found my place in the dance world, and thanked my lucky stars to be working in the live entertainment capital of the world.