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July 19, 2020

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Vegas performers stay active during crisis

CONCERTS, acrobatic shows, striptease dance revues and other performances that typically entertain thousands of tourists in Las Vegas are among the workplaces that have closed due to the coronavirus.

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.

Many performers, including those from foreign countries, are waiting in Vegas for the shows and crowds to return, trying to keep their bodies in top form, practicing their skills and finding ways to perform.

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 utter silence. The show typically involves male dancers interacting with the audience and sometimes making physical contact.

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

The dancers, like most performers in Vegas shows, haven’t been given any indication when they will return to the stage.

For now, Rivera is among a small group of Chippendales dancers participating in Zoom parties, dancing in the show’s signature shirt collar and cuffs for events like virtual bachelorette and birthday parties.

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

Rivera said he misses the energy and feedback from the crowd. Virtual performances require making more conversation with audiences that can be quiet or hard to read.

The upside is he and those watching can speak to each other by name, so it’s a fun, more personalized experience for the audience.

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

Since then “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 be allowed again,” she said.

While spending most of her time quarantining at home, James does circuit workouts to keep up her stamina and uses equipment at home and at 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,” James said. “Every day we’re trying to be creative.”


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