weather icon Clear

New ‘iLuminate’ show is the dance party The Strat has never had

Miral Kotb finds art in the dark.

She has survived cancer — twice. She considers computer coding an art form. And she’s about to turn a Las Vegas showroom into a luminous, late-night dance production.

“iLuminate” is this artistic venture, opening Aug. 26 at The Strat Theater. The glow-in-the-dark fusion of dance and comedy runs 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays. Tickets are go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday, starting at $49, at tickets.thestrat.com or at The Strat.

The “iLuminate” troupe and technology gained national notoriety in 2011, first on Chris Brown’s “F.A.M.E.” tour and later that year by finishing in third place on the sixth season of “America’s Got Talent.” The technology, and dancers, have also been utilized by Black Eyed Peas and Christina Aguilera. “iLuminate” has also performed in New York, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Mexico, Egypt and on the cruise-ship circuit.

The dancers’ pulsating suits became a visual sensation, the result of merging two seemingly unrelated skills — choreography and coding.

Starts and stops

An Egyptian-American raised in Houston, Kotb is a master at both. She developed the “iLuminate” technology, then established the company behind the concept. Finally, she zeroed in on the idea for the Las Vegas stage show. But Kotb’s path to Vegas has been repeatedly derailed.

In 2001, Kotb suffered from sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that grows in connective tissues, in her right hip. She recovered after intensive Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT). In 2017, she was diagnosed with leukemia, surviving through a stem-cell transplant from her sister.

Kotb was finally ready to bring “iLuminate” to Vegas in 2020, prepping for a residency at Sin City Theater at Planet Hollywood. That project was delayed amid COVID-19 restrictions, and finally undercut when Caesars Entertainment closed the venue permanently in May.

“I’m doing well; I’m three years cancer free,” Kotb said during a phone chat Sunday. “With leukemia, you have a new normal, which is living with stem-cell transplants. And we know the new normal of COVID. I have been experiencing both.”

A graduate of Columbia University, where she studied computer technology, Kotb is also a trained classical dancer dating to her childhood. She performed as a dancer while in school and after graduation. While writing code for iPhone applications, she discovered she could illuminate a dance costume remotely in rhythm with the music and dancers’ movements.

As Kotb explained in a column she contributed to Newsweek in June 2020, “I learned about the ease of using your smartphone to communicate with mini wireless chips — they are so small you can use them in anything. In my case, the chips could be used to communicate information on a dancer while they are performing live.

“Through what is now the patented iLuminate system, the dancers wear mini-computers that power the lights based on commands we send wirelessly. The ‘lightography’ is programmed to be synced to the music and movement.”

Following that theme, Kotb says, “Coding is the most creative part of my day. I go into a different zone. When I start, I tell people around me, ‘Leave me alone. I’m going into the Matrix.’ ”

Dance, comedy and tech

“iLuminate” features six backing dancers with across-the-medium training. The co-hosts are familiar Vegas stage performers, couple Matt Morgan and Heidi Brucker Morgan. Both have worked in Spiegelworld as well as in their own offshoot productions.

West Hyler, who has worked on Cirque’s “Paramour” Broadway show and also “Jersey Boys,” is co-director. Music director Kevin Teasley has designed the sound for Jennifer Lopez (on her Super Bowl LIV halftime show with Shakira), Usher and Britney Spears, among other artists.

“You will see amazingness,” Kotb says when asked what we will see, exactly. “It’s basically a show through different eras. We celebrate life’s journey through many different styles — jazz, Moulin Rouge, Prohibition, the hippy era, hip-hop, to the ’80s, ’90s house party all through the current EDM vibe.”

The party experience is fueled by an option where an audience member orders a particular shot, which will correspond with a dance-era experience. A specific liquor will send you to the ’80s, or to a ’90s dance-party segment.

The show survived COVID-19 as Kotb found an opening at The Strat Theater, with Adam Steck of SPI Entertainment as the newly installed venue manager. The hotel is looking to expand its entertainment roster with a late-night production.

When “iLuminate” launches, its lead-in shows will be mentalist Banachek, Xavier Mortimer’s magic production and “MJ Live” (at least until that show moves out at the end of the year).

All of those shows will pause when Sammy Hagar’s rock-party concert performs six shows from Oct. 29-Nov. 13.

“This is going to be a different style of show,” Kotb says. “It has been a dream of mine for a long time. I’m actually moving to Vegas soon, and plan to be involved in every area of the show. I am excited to bring the party to the city.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.