Vegas entertainers dance, train at home, awaiting the stage

'As artists, we’re not sitting here cooling our heels'

Concerts, acrobatic shows, striptease dance revues and other performances that typically entertain thousands of tourists in Las Vegas are among the workplaces that have had to shutter from the coronavirus.

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Though casinos have been allowed to reopen with rules about sanitizing, social distancing and mandatory face masks, hundreds of performers who round out the only-in-Vegas spectacle are still waiting.

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Many performers, including those who’ve come to the city from all over the world, are waiting in Las Vegas for the shows and crowds to return, trying to keep their bodies in top form, practice their skills and find a way to perform.

Juggler Victor Ponce practices his spinning plates routine in the kitchen of his home on June 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Miguel Rivera had been dancing with the Chippendales male revue for four months when the show shut down, taking Rivera from energetic and interactive audiences every night to a lot more quiet. The show typically involved male dancers out interacting with the audience and sometimes having physical contact.

“That’s why it is hard to come back with a show like ours,” he said. “Or we have to modify everything.”

The dancers, like most performers at Las Vegas shows, haven’t been given any indication when they’ll be called to return to the stage. For now, Rivera is among a small group of Chippendales’ dancers doing Zoom “parties,” dancing in the show’s signature shirt collar and cuffs for virtual bachelorette and birthday parties and more.

Melissa James, a dancer and aerialist in the show "Extravaganza" at Bally's casino resort, trains in her home on June 20, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

“At the beginning it was kind of weird because I’m lap dancing in front of the camera,” he said with a laugh. “This is the only way we can interact together.”

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Rivera said he misses the energy and the feedback of the crowd. Virtual performances involving making more conversation with the audience, and sometimes they can be too quiet or hard to read. The upside, he said, is that he and those watching him dance can speak to each other by name and it’s a fun, more personalized experience for the audience.

Melissa James, a dancer and aerialist in the show “Extravaganza” at Bally’s casino-resort, said it was heartbreaking when, after weeks of grueling rehearsals, COVID-19 closures shut down her show after its debut night in March.

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Since then, she said, “we’ve kind of just been waiting here, trying to stay in shape and stay fresh and ready, should we get the go-ahead that shows will allowed again.”

Ariel Hold practices a routine on a horse for "Gladius The Show," a touring equestrian and acrobatic show on May 28, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

While largely quarantining at home, James said she does circuit workouts to keep up her stamina and uses equipment at home and a recently reopened circus training space to work on strength and aerial skills. To stay inspired, she practices ballet and works on choreography.

“As artists, we’re not sitting here cooling our heels,” she said. “Every day we’re trying to be creative.”

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