Looking hard to find twists on twists


It’s not Elayne Kramer’s fault.

According to the website Circopedia (yeah, who knew?), the young contortionist started training with her circus family at age 4 to become “one of the top hand-balancers of her generation.”

All so, on a recent Saturday night at “Vegas Nocturne,” I could watch her practically sit on her own head. As she balanced on her forearms, her back was so curved that her bottom reached all the way to the top of her skull.

Amazing, right?

Just one problem. I had seen something similar the previous Saturday night.

Yachen Wang from the Tianjin Acrobatic Troupe plays “The Princess Peacock” in “Panda!” She is said to practice her single handstand for at least an hour a day without letting her body fall.

I connected the Saturday-night dots after struggling to write reviews of both shows. Why am I not more excited about these acrobatics?

Well, perhaps because 14 Las Vegas shows feature them in some form. That’s conservative, leaving out the stuntwork of “Tournament of Kings” or the “silk acts” in some of the topless shows. And the number isn’t in proportion, because the count includes most of the top-shelf titles.

Acrobatics will surely define this era of Las Vegas entertainment, just as surely as celebrity showmen defined the golden age. When I scroll through microfilm, I see the years when the Strip was clogged with manic, Louis Prima-style lounge acts. And talk about Parisian showgirls. At one point, the Dunes alone had both “Casino de Paris” and “Vive les Girls.”

For a while I considered this my cross to bear as a show reviewer. When I assess one title, should I ignore the other?

But now, I’m starting to wonder if it’s a collective problem. I have a weird gig, but a lot of Las Vegas ticket-buyers are repeat visitors. They don’t see a show every week. But even if they see one or two a year, it adds up. The Cirque backlash started years ago, with locals getting ho-hum about repetitive material in newer arrivals such as “Zarkana.”

No doubt the Chinese producers of “Panda!” created their content independently of rehearsals for Ross Mollison’s “Vegas Nocturne.” Both were so busy they may not even have known about each other.

The producers will probably tell us it’s two different audiences. Or even that you should see their show and not the other guy’s. But if they want to operate in a vacuum, they should know the public doesn’t.

One day ticket-buyers will say, “Enough.” For now, I guess we accept acrobatics as a common vocabulary, and embrace the creative variations.

Kramer shot a bow and arrow with her feet. Cool! At least I hadn’t seen that before.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.