Where the jobs are: Las Vegas

Where the jobs are: Las Vegas – employment for dancers

Richard Dean Jenkins

Las Vegas–the words inspire images of sun-splashed, gorgeous weather, Sinatra at The Sands, and hotel entertainment galore. Simply put, Las Vegas is a jazz and tap dancer’s job paradise. Opportunities are plentiful, housing is very modestly price, and it’s possible to land a yearlong show.

In 1993, more than twenty-three million people flocked to Las Vegas to sightsee, gamble, relax, and be entertained. And with nearly one hundred hotels in or around the city, it adds up to a huge demand for performers. On that score, dancers have a distinct advantage over actors because they can display their talents in the theme-park type shows created for the hotels. And if you can juggle, or fence or have an auxiliary talent, so much the better.

“Las Vegas has changed very much in the past few years,” says Larry Woolf, chairman, presidedt, and CEO of MGM Grand Hotel. “Today Las Vegas is home to some of the hottest shows and names.”

Lavish extravaganzas are second nature in this oasis of the desert and are reflected by cast size and the length of the show’s run. Starlight Expresss, at the Hilton Las Vegas, for instance, has a contract for several years and uses nearly forty performers. Although this is only one example, it does illustrate that a dancer’s odds of breaking into a cast this size are better than in a show with fewer performers.

While the jobs are out there, some entertainment directors jealously guard audition information and, especially, salaries, although the American Guild of Variety Artists union does hold jurisdiction in some cases. Following is a list of some larger producers.

MGM GRAND HOTEL

This $1 billion mega-entertainment resort comprises the MGM Grand Air and the Casino & Theme Park. Productions rival Broadway shows, as, for instance, the opening of EFX, a $30 million show with Michael Crawford, star of Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera, which is slated for the fall season. It will have a cast of seventy, with a backstage crew of eighty.

RIVIERA HOTEL

Splash, an acquacade-type music and dance show produced by Kutash Dancin’ Inc., is the long-running show here. It includes a West Side Story-style theme, a motorcycle segment, a tribute to Hollywood and Broadway, and an MTV-style number. Auditions are held twice yearly in various cities with more than one hundred performers hires–two-thirds are dancers–for productions in both Reno and Japan. Contracts for one year averge from $450 to $1,000 weekly. Jazz and street-dance performers are preferred.

BALLY’S CASINO REPORT

This showplace includes a 1,450-seat theater for headline acts and a 1,024-seat theater, home of Donn Arden’s Jubilee!–the second longest-running show in Las Vegas. The cast consists of one hundred singers and dancers. Auditions are held every six months at Bally’s; the cast must reaudition.

THE MIRAGE

There are two permanent shows, with The Buccaneer Bay Sea Battle, a live-action stunt show, offering the greatest potential for dance jobs. Competition is fierce for the thirty-two-full-time positions with seven daily and forty-nine weekly shows. Benefits are generous: Blue Cross or HMO plans, dental care, life insurance, and a credit union are available. If you don’t like water, however, don’t audition because two and a half million gallons of unheated water are used in the sea battle.

The audition process for jobs in corporate-run Las Vegas differs slightly in requiring a business like approach. After determining the show that best fits your talents, send a videotape, resume, and individual covering letter to the entertainment director.

LAS VEGAS HOTEL RESOURCES

(Area code is 702)

Aladdin Hotel & Casino 736-0111

MGM Grand Hotel & Theme Park

891-1111

Bally’s Casino Resort 739-4111

Excalibur Hotel/Casino 597-7777

Harrah’s 369-5000

The Hilton Las Vegas 732-5111

Mirage Hotel & Casino 791-7111

Riviera Hotel 734-5110

Stardust 732-6111

Tropicana Resort & Casin 739-2222

TALENT AGENTS

Creative Casting & Acting 737-0611

The Baskow Agency 733-7818

Spectrum Casting 256-8324

Bass Creative Bookings 388-2898

COPYRIGHT 1994 Dance Magazine, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group