Las Vegas Strip dancers hoof it to CSN for benefit concerts


She's grinding, rubbing, stroking, seducing, sliding down his leg, everything except donning her birthday suit.

He's ... oblivious. Dude: Wake up!

Do it before she -- whoa, too late -- jumps right into your arms.

Should she be anymore obvious, they'll have to move this to the Erotic Heritage Museum. As is, we're in a dance studio in the bowels of the Phantom Theatre at The Venetian.

"He doesn't even know I'm alive," says Courtney Combs, practicing a dance piece -- yes, it's just a dance piece -- with partner Dustin Layton for "City Moves," a pair of contemporary dance performances this weekend starring a host of Strip show folks at the College of Southern Nevada.

"I'm jumping on him and rolling around in front of him, and he still has no idea."

Both performers with The Venetian's "Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular," Combs and Layton are working out the moves -- or in Layton's case, nearly nonmoves -- to the Rufus Wainwright tune, "My Phone's On Vibrate For You."

Explaining the number's relationship commentary, Combs says: "I choreographed this when I was out in L.A. about five years ago. At the time, I was always the one with my phone on vibrate, always the one waiting for the phone calls or emails or texts, so it's very much a personal story. Plus, I've always had a little bit of sarcasm in my dancing."

Forgive the 'tude as Combs and Layton join performers from "The Lion King," "Ka," "Le Reve," "Viva Elvis," "Love," "Peepshow," "Jubilee!" and others in a weekend dance-o-rama to benefit both CSN's performing arts center and Family Promise of Las Vegas, a nonprofit organization that assists homeless Las Vegas families.

"I've performed in benefits for Family Promise through all my lifetime here at 'Phantom' because that's the organization 'Phantom' has taken on," says Heather Sirois-Arnold, another "Phantom" performer who, along with Combs, is co-directing the show, in its fourth year of partnership between CSN and Family Promise. Schmoozing with the "City Moves" cast and a silent auction will round out the afternoons.

Producing the benefits is Bruce Ewing, a fellow "Phantom" thespian who's also a Family Promise volunteer.

"Every Christmas we adopt families and buy Christmas gifts," Combs says about the "Phantom"-Family Promise bond.

"Heather and I wanted to something where an entire city can come together and give back. Vegas has given us so much in terms of our employment."

While the Wainwright piece may address a kind of lopsided relationship, Layton is also choreographing a dance portraying a couple whose fate is a tad more tragic. "I'm doing 'Romeo and Juliet' with my wife, which makes it a pretty special piece," Layton says. "It's fun to experiment with the acting side of dancing, but I tried not to get too far away from the dance movement. It's more the relationship side of 'Romeo and Juliet,' not the whole story. Hopefully, the audience will remember the story so they can put two and two together."

Local hoofers from Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater are joining the Strip vets on the stage of CSN's Nicholas J. Horn Theatre, but it's the Las Vegas Boulevard gang that will dominate each day, drawing on a common link many Strip performers forged in Chicago.

"Over at 'Elvis,' we've crossed paths with these people in Chicago, as well as 'The Lion King,' " says Sirois-Arnold, who is passing on performing this year after recently giving birth.

"We've known them for so long, and everybody wound up out here, so we could just call them and say, 'Hey, you want to help out?' Everyone's eager to be a part of it because they do the same thing every night, so to ask them to create something new, we've had to say no to some people because our running time was too long."

Take a cue from Combs and keep your phone on vibrate during "City Moves." Better yet, leave the yapper off. Artistry deserves better than divided attention.

And who knows? You might emerge with valuable relationship advice via Combs' interpretation of a distracted couple.

Just don't take any relationship advice from "Romeo and Juliet."

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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