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The show must go on...

Bringing entertainment from Russia to Biloxi presents unique challenges

Biloxi — The show must go on. But imagine the complications of the opening nights of the Red Dream, a new circus and dance production from Russia that began recently at the Beau Rivage — even though four of the six lead male dancers had been denied visas to enter the country.

Getting visas from the American Embassy for a cast of 44 is just one of the challenges of pulling together a performance from another country halfway around the globe. Since 9/11, applicants for visas from foreign countries must have face-to-face interviews. In the case of Red Dream, four of the six principal male dancers were denied visas just a week before the opening.

“It affected two of the dance numbers that had lifts involved,” said Terry Burden, the vice president of entertainment for the Beau who is co-producer of Red Dream. “We weren’t able to do them. We had to open with two different numbers. It is not easy for a Russian to get a visa into this country. But we wrote some letters to the counsel general in Moscow and got another interview. The four male dancers received visas and arrived three days after the show opened.”

Caught in the bureaucracy

Embassy officials don’t have to give any reason for denying a Visa, and denials have been more common since the U.S. tightened its borders following Sept. 11. Burden said Visa problems have happened pretty much every time the Beau has done shows from foreign countries.

“It happened with the show from Brazil a year ago,” Burden said. “You get caught up in the bureaucracy and just have to deal with it. You work your way through. You reapply for another hearing, which takes a week or 10 days.”

Burden gets about 20 videotapes per week from people trying to sell a show. When he received a tape of a dance from Redream (he renamed it Red Dream over here because the other spelling seemed confusing to people), he was so impressed he went to Moscow to check it out.

“I was just amazed at the choreography and level of dancing,” said Burden, who produced a couple of shows at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas before coming to work at Beau Rivage. “I hadn’t seen anything quite like that in about 10 years. I have been watching dance 24 years now, and I have never seen a dance troupe as tight as this one. I was totally impressed with this group. So I made some inquiries, and what I saw was an entire dance show lasting 1.5 hours without any other acts. I knew that wouldn’t work for the Beau Rivage, and that we would need other acts intermingled with the dancing.”

On a trip to Russia in October 2003, Burden checked out 40 different circus acts over a five-day period, singling out the four acts he thought were the best. Then he met with the choreographer for Redream, Alla Dukhova.

“I felt her out to see if she was in the mood to use her dancers and choreography, but mixing it with some of the other acts,” Burden said. “She is a very famous choreographer in Russia and has about 40 schools. A lot of her dancers start with her at four years old, so there is some incredible discipline and dedication. Staying together that long makes for a very tight unit.”

During a second trip to Russia in May 2004, Burden auditioned dancers, picked costumes and music, and put the show together. One of the most important things the producer does is pacing. You start out slow, dazzle the audience more at each turn, and build gradually to the end.

The Beau Rivage has had great success with circus type shows starting with Allegria, the Cirque Du Soleil group that opened the theater at Beau Rivage. Later performances, Balagan and Taganai, also featured circus acts. Taganai was the best performance as far as ticket sales.

“Obviously, the audience we play to likes this sort of thing,” Burden said. “I wanted to keep the spirit of it, but give them what I consider some great dancing.”

The circus acts include aerials, acrobatics and balancing acts that keep the audience on the edge of their seats. What some of the performers are able to accomplish seems impossible — and very dangerous. During an opening act for a special press party performance, a male performer fell and injured his arm, dislocating an elbow and pulling tendons.

“He has to let it heal for three to six months,” Burden said. “I was told it was the first time he had been injured in 18 years. There are always the possibilities of injuries. It makes it tougher when they come from Russia to just pick up another act. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed we won’t have any more injuries.”

Burden said entertainment in a casino has one purpose: to attract people into the resort. But that doesn’t mean the entertainment is a loss leader.

“We don’t go into it with the idea we are going to lose,” Burden said. “It isn’t a giant revenue source. We have at least broken even on the past three shows. There is a little risk involved. But if you get quality, it usually works out.”

Some casino dance performances are racy and sexually suggestive. But Red Dream, while it has some sexy numbers, isn’t about flashing flesh.

“We have a certain reputation here, and I don’t intend to ever take it down that road,” Burden said. “I’ll take it to a certain limit, but I’ll stop at a certain point. I want the emphasis to be on the dance. I recognize the girls are beautiful. But the focus is on the artistry of the dance. I think we have accomplished that.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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