Performing in Vegas a lifelong dream for dancer

Lisa Cannon is a svelte, steak-eating, raven-haired go-go dancer at Club Nikki. Dancing in Vegas is the culmination of her lifetime of dreams. Let’s rewind, and you’ll see.

A dancer in Australia since she was 5, Cannon’s first gig as a teen was in an Elvis show in Japan. She was flown from Sydney to Atami and paid a paltry $350 a week — plus a bucket of rice.

“We had rice coming out of our ears,” she says, and the rice bloated her; she is gluten intolerant.

She went on to dance in showgirl shows in Thailand, Malaysia, Italy, Singapore, Korea, Macau and Paris.

She won a French cancan spot at the Moulin Rouge despite her height (a scant 5 feet 7), surviving the legendary club’s intense pressure to cold-audition with the whole cast.

She was pickpocketed in Paris.

She got whiplash in a car wreck in Sydney.

“I was told I’d never dance again,” she says. “I didn’t dance for a year.”

She was engaged to an Italian music tech she worked with on a cruise ship. It didn’t pan out.

In Macau, she lived for three years in the same hotel room. She changed the curtains.

And now she go-go’s — that’s what she does when she’s not teaching pole dancing at Pole Fitness Studio; or dancing in the “Magic of Paris” show; or acting as a sort of Vanna White in the “Marc Savard Comedy Hypnosis” show; or auditioning for even more shows.

Such is a dancer’s life in Vegas — always working, always auditioning for more work, sometimes brushing off injuries because of bad shoes or slippery stages.

Cannon, 31, grew accustomed to this lifestyle during that Elvis job in Japan.

“It was seven days a week. For six months. No days off,” she says.

“That’s what a lot of my contracts were,” she says. “I’ve been starting since 1997. The first day off I was granted was in 2004.”

She enjoyed her explorer’s life overseas. But she wanted to dance in America since she was young, because there are more gigs galore in Vegas and New York than anywhere else.

To get here, she needed to find a visa sponsor. Some years ago, she took an exploratory trip to Vegas from Thailand. To pay for it, Cannon saved money by cutting corners on food and moisturizer, meagerly dabbling dribs of lotion on her legs “just to save pennies.”

“It was brutal!” she says, laughing as she does throughout our interview. She’s an easy laugher.

Finally one day, she found someone in America to whiz her legal case, penning her $5,000 visa application as a dancer who was “culturally unique in the art of burlesque.”

She arrived in Vegas two years ago, as skilled and broke as dancers get.

“I had no place to live, no friends, no jobs, no car, no bank account.”

Her parents chose this life for her, sort of, enrolling her in dance class at 5.

“Mum and Dad talked me into it, because I was always dancing around the house.”

When she was 10, a friend accidentally broke her nose.

“That was great — when you’re only 10, and you’ve got a cast on your nose and glasses. I was picked on a lot.

“One boy in class — he goes, ‘Lisa, I’ll still hold your hand.’ He was sweet. He’s still my friend to this day.”

Getting picked on, and being a shy girl, gave her something to prove.

“I always think I’m not good enough, basically. I always feel like I have to work harder — and more than the person next to me — because I never had that spotlight as a little kid.”

She swears she’s not into dancing for the attention.

“It’s like acting in a way — putting on different costumes,” she says. “It’s exercise. You get a good rush of adrenaline. It’s a natural high. I love it that much. I can’t get enough of the natural high.”

On her worst days, she goes to work then feels, “Ahhh.”

“I always leave the show feeling better, because you’ve got that anger out, or what you were feeling. It gives you laughter. It’s a good little escape.”

Cannon is naturally bubbly, one of those people who always seems genuinely happy or striving for happiness.

It was the car wreck that gave her the most perspective, she says.

“That made me look at the world different — live your life to your fullest. If you’ve had a fight with your parents or your loved ones — whoever — always try and resolve the problem quickly, and say you love them and miss them, because you never know. You could be gone in a second.”

When other people complain about work demands, she says she thinks: “You’ve got no idea. I’ve given up, at the moment, my country and my family to work in this town. It’s gold for you guys.”

She danced in “Crazy Girls,” then “American Superstars” till it closed at the Stratosphere this spring.

Now men flock to her at Club Nikki/Nikki Beach (she’s booked there through entertainment company UD Factory).

Sometimes, men point phone cameras up at her crotch, which is “a little awkward.”

“If I see them and they are going to take a photo, I’ll at least turn around and smile so they’ve got a decent one.”

Security guards keep an eye on fans.

“We’ve had no dramas. They look after us and take care of us, and even ask us how our day is. They’re really nice.”

Some men give her their business cards while she dances.

“You just take it, tuck it wherever, and then you go off and put it in the (garbage) bin.”

So there she is, twirling on the go-go stand, Lisa Cannon, the green carded, globe-trotting ballet, tap, jazz and cancan pro who is making the most of 5 feet 7 in the land of her childhood fantasies.

Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Contact him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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