Where do the directors go when the auds exit?
Toni Basil, dance director and choreographer of Bette Midler’s “The Showgirl Must Go On” at Caesar’s Palace
A graduate of Las Vegas High and its former head cheerleader, Toni Basil remembers the Strip when it was just “grains of sand and six hotels.” A big fan of the “new” Las Vegas, “It’s really quite fabulous,” she says. Basil’s back in town to dance, direct and choreograph Bette Midler’s star vehicle, “The Showgirl Must Go On.” A mix of serious and camp choreography, Basil oversees 18 dancers in a series of eclectic perfs that range from showgirl high kicks to progressive street dance moves.
The biggest change for Basil: the abundance of great restaurants. She’s a fan of Spago and Bradley Ogden (both at Caesar’s) and the cult favorite Lotus of Siam. “It lives up to its press,” says Basil of the northern Thai spot in a funky strip mall off Sahara Boulevard.
Shopping is now without equal, too. The end-of-season, last-call sales at Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus are “the best sales I’ve ever experienced, with designer stuff marked down three times,” Basil finds.
When she’s not at rehearsals, she makes time for dance classes. She recommends Paul Talmintere’s Thursday night tango class and dance at Dance World USA. A fan of old-school street dancers, she points out that Mr. Freeze (of the Rock Steady Crew) lives in town as do the Electric Boogaloos, who continue to teach their poppin’ style at workshops worldwide.
Ian Jankelowitz, managing director for CineVegas
When he’s not prepping for the next CineVegas Film Festival, Ian Jankelowitz is out on the trail, literally. An avid hiker and mountain biker, the Aussie-born cineaste agrees with Outside magazine’s rating of Las Vegas as the No. 1 outdoor city in America.
“There’s lots of varied terrain at Red Rock,” says Jankelowitz of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just 25 minutes from the Strip. “You can do a 45-minute loop or a seven- to eight-hour all-day marathon,” he enthuses about the park’s hiking possibilities.
Also a favorite: Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, where primordial sandstone formations and deeply colored red rocks make for an accessible desert landscape and great hiking just 45 minutes away from town.
Another Jankelowitz must-do: a day trip to Zion National Park and hike on the narrow, vertigo-inducing Angels Landing Trail.
A graduate of the U. of Nevada, Las Vegas, the film festival exec has lived in town for the past seven years. Vegas’ 24/7 lifestyle does take some getting used to, he found. However, most nonresidents only think of the Strip, rather than the reality of a bustling city of 2 million. “It’s really a city of hidden gems,” Jankelowitz advises. “You may have to dig a little deeper to find them, but they’re all here.”
Ria Martens, Cirque du Soleil artistic director in charge of “Criss Angel: Believe” at the Luxor
Ever wonder who helps finesse the performance of those twin Chinese acrobats who flip in and out of an oversized martini glass during “Zumanity”? As an artistic director for Cirque du Soleil, Ria Martens has not only kept the comely acrobats in form, and all of “Zumanity’s” creative team, but she’s also overseen the touring production of “Alegria” and is now behind the scenes of Criss Angel’s “Believe,” the latest show from the troupe, coming to the Luxor Sept. 12.
The Belgium expat found her Summerlin area house through a fellow Cirque artist, Paul Bowler of RE/MAX Central. She wanted to be close to the mountains as well as have room for her two Skye terriers. The city’s many parks are perfect for dog walking, though summertime temps mean the walk starts at 5 a.m. “Since I moved here in 2004, the city has boomed,” says Martens, who alternates ambles between Garden Park, the Willows and Paseo Park. She went through four veterinarians before finding “the amazingly fantastic” Dr. Elena Pederson, who has her own clinic at the Advanced Animal Care Hospital.
In addition to her daily 1½-hour dog walks, Martens stays in shape via twice-weekly Ashtanga yoga classes with teacher Shawn Hughes at Sherry Goldstein Yoga Sanctuary. And where is she most likely to catch her Cirque colleagues off-hours? “Honestly? Lunch outside on the patio at the west side Whole Foods grocery store.”