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










The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via YouTube

In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.

From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Teaching arabesque can be a challenge for educators and students alike. Differences in body types, flexibility and strength can leave dancers feeling dejected about the possibility of improving this essential position.

To help each of us in our quest for establishing beautiful arabesques in our students without bringing them to tears, we caught up with University of Utah ballet teacher Jennie Creer-King. After her professional career dancing with Ballet West and Oregon Ballet Theater and her years of teaching at the studio and college levels, she's become a bit of an arabesque expert.

Here she shares five important tips for increasing the height of your students' arabesques.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via Instagram

Happy Father's Day to all of the dance dads in the world! Whether you're professional dancers, dance teachers, dance directors or simply just dance supporters, you are a key ingredient to what makes the dance world such a happy, thriving place, and we love you!

To celebrate, here are our four favorite Instagram dance dads. Prepare to say "Awwwwwwwweeeeeee!!!!!!"

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox