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Dancing in 'Jubilee!'

Diane Booth was too tall for ballet. But leggy works in Las Vegas.

July 05, 2009|Christopher Smith

"Jubilee!" has a cast of about 100, most of them dancers. Each dancer has a six-month, renewable contract and has to re-audition; about 10% of the company turns over twice a year. The money isn't much -- salaries average just over $30,000 a year -- but the job offers vacation and health benefits, prized commodities among the non-union productions on the Strip.

But talk to cast members and you find it's about the opportunity to actually dance. While the Cirque du Soleil shows emphasize acrobatic skill and mimed expression, "Jubilee!" is old-school, 12 shows a week of classic two-three-kick-turn, turn-turn-kick-turn choreography. That's a scarce gig in present-day Las Vegas.

Diane Booth, in the cast for 10 months, is literally scraping the ceiling of her dance opportunities. The 28-year-old Newport Beach native focused on ballet as a kid, trained at the prestigious Rock School in Philadelphia and won a Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award in Classical Dance in 2002, but her career in ballet was ultimately undone by her genes.

"I ended up half an inch under 6 feet. Most ballet companies want women around 5 feet, 6 inches, and if you aren't that, you stick out the wrong way. And there weren't many male dancers tall enough to partner me."

After graduating from Indiana University, Booth was hired by Ballet West in Utah, which had a reputation for preferring taller dancers. But a regime change there in 2007 brought out the tape measure, and she was cut from the company. She knew that leggy was more than OK in a Las Vegas revue and aced an audition call for "Jubilee!" -- goodbye leotards, hello glamour.

Appearing topless doesn't faze her, but going out on 3-inch heels and balancing heavy headdresses that often weigh more than 20 pounds can lead to an experience she doesn't want to repeat.

"I've only been down once," Booth said. "I was in my pink-and-orange costume in the opening number. I fell front and center, and it felt like it was in slow motion and a long way down, but I popped up pretty quickly. It's a little bit humiliating, and I really focus on my movements to avoid it happening again."

-- Christopher Smith

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