Performance Planner: Viva Las Vegas!

Kristin Lewis is a writer in New York City.

 

Thinking of channeling the over-the-top glamour of Las Vegas for your next show? Here are ideas for six numbers that are sure to give you a full house!


#1 Royal Flush

Theme: a high-stakes game of poker

Genre: jazz

Song: “Money” by Pink Floyd

 

Set the scene with a dark stage and a spotlight on a poker table with chips placed upstage center. Use a haze machine to create a smoky atmosphere. Dress your dancers in tuxedos, and give them fake cigars and martinis (use plastic martini glasses from party supply stores; for olives, spray-paint marshmallows green, stick them on toothpicks and glue to the glasses). Start the number in silence with one dancer dealing the cards to the others seated around the table. The players take the cards and stare at each other with perfect poker faces before placing their bets. Then the music starts and the action around the table begins. Generate movement and gesture ideas by having dancers improvise to the following words and phrases: folding, bluffing, casting chips, calling, winning, full house, placing a bet. To represent holding a hand of cards, students can make the number four, palm facing in. Have students check out the World Series of Poker on ESPN as well as the poker scenes in Funny Girl and Casino Royale for inspiration.


#2 Wedding Chapel

Theme: couples jetting off to Vegas to get hitched

Genre: tap/swing

Song: “Chapel of Love” by the 

Dixie Cups

 

For this number, the tackier the sets and costumes, the better. Prom supply companies like Stumps Prom & Party (www.stumpsprom.com) and Anderson’s Prom (www.andersonsprom.com) are good sources for finding garland, arches, murals and other decorations. Place an arch upstage center with a podium underneath. The dancer portraying the chaplain should walk onstage with an old-school cassette player, stand beneath the arch and click “play” as the song begins. The rest of the class can play different couples eloping. Give each pair their own distinctive look and personality. (For example, score laughs by pairing the tallest and shortest dancers in your class together.) During the verses, couples should parade in line to the chaplain, who can hand each bride the same veil and bouquet and pronounce the couples man and wife through mime. During the chorus, all the couples can dance together.


#3 The King

Theme: Elvis impersonators

Genre: creative movement

Song: “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley

 

Pay homage to Vegas’ distinguished tradition of Elvis impersonation and dress your youngest dancers as the King, complete with wigs and sunglasses. The choreography can be simple (jazz squares, step-ball-changes, passés and port de bras), but be sure to include a few of Elvis’ signature hip swings, collar pops and arm-swinging guitar strums. It may take a while to teach, but the audience’s oohs and aahs will be worth the effort. (You’ll find several clips on YouTube for inspiration.) For additional Elvis-inspired numbers, consider portraying the different eras of his life. Examples include “Jailhouse Rock” Elvis and Elvis joins the Army. 


#4 Nightclub Entertainment

Theme: glamorous, over-the-top Vegas showgirls

Genres: pointe, lyrical jazz, duets or contemporary ballet

Song medley: “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow (pointe), “Taking Chances” by Céline Dion (lyrical jazz), “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” by Wayne Newton (duet), “Wind” from Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity (contemporary ballet)

 

Use this showgirls-themed number to work in many different styles of dance, with songs from Vegas entertainers past and present. Play up the theme with a glittery backdrop, and glam up dancers with elaborate headdresses (think Ziegfeld Follies), body glitter and rhinestones galore.

 

Start the medley with a bright, sensual pointe number to Manilow’s “Copacabana.” For a technical challenge, choreograph the whole piece so that dancers never come off pointe. They can walk, turn and strut—all sur le pointe. (Remind them to stretch their feet, Achilles tendons and calves before and after.)

 

For the next number, a lyrical jazz piece set to Dion’s “Taking Chances,” choreograph movement that also “takes chances.” Incorporate daring lifts into the piece, (if you don’t have boys, have the girls lift each other), complicated turn sequences (such as fouettés into à la seconde turns into back attitude turns into aerials) and death-defying jumps and tosses. If you want to be over-the-top and you have enough vertical space on the stage, incorporate trampolines. Dancers can toss each other from one trampoline to the next, as if flying.

 

Darken the stage and use a spotlight for a romantic waltz duet, “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” by Wayne Newton. Tell your two dancers to imagine they are a singer and pianist “dancing” together. Outfit your boy in a tuxedo and your girl in a glamorous dark red evening gown and ballroom shoes.

 

End the medley with a contemporary number set to “Wind” from Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity. This is the time to showcase your most advanced dancers’ technical skills. Cirque is known for pushing physical boundaries. Do the same with your students, whether it’s feats of flexibility, crowd-pleasing turns and jumps or partner acrobatics.


#5 The Casino Floor

Theme: out-of-towners hit the slots

Genre: tap

Song: “Pocketful of Money” by Jens Lekman

 

The rhythm and sound of the taps should be modeled after the sound of coins hitting the slots. Choreograph upper-body movement after the concepts of pulling back the lever on a slot machine, winning, losing and dropping coins. Costume dancers like stereotypical out-of-towners, with safari hats, fanny packs, cameras and Hawaiian-print shirts.

If an advanced class is performing this number, try using casino coin cups. Have each dancer carry a cup during the number and incorporate tapping them against each other, on the floor and “drumming” on them into your choreography for an additional layer of synchronized sounds.


#6 What Happens in Vegas...

Theme: a bring-the-house-down finale

Song: “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley

Genre: jazz

 

End the show on a fun note with a jazz number that gets the audience tapping their feet and clapping their hands. Use the entire cast if possible, and outfit them in the same style, but in different colors according to level. Use summery shades that evoke the desert, like burnt orange, bright yellow and flame red. For an inexpensive option, purchase colored T-shirts and have dancers pair them with black leggings or dance pants. You can even have everyone wear sunglasses. Not sure what to do with the class clown? Why not enlist him or her to perform as the sole Elvis impersonator during this number. Or, if time permits, round up a group of outgoing students to play a number of Las Vegas notables, like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Liberace. Rain faux dollar bills on the stage at the very end. DT



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