Lots of people move to a different city for a new job at some point during their career. For a professional dancer, it’s commonplace. You go where the gig takes you.
That’s the case with Liinda Garisto, but she still acknowledges that her current gig is quite unique and occasionally surreal. She’s the lone female dancer in Magic Mike Live—the acclaimed show created by the film series’ star Channing Tatum, which celebrated two years at the Hard Rock Hotel last month—and her job is essentially to perform in one scene every night, a few minutes onstage that translate to one of the sexiest moments you’ll see in any Vegas show.
“It has been phenomenal all the way around,” Garisto says. “It has the makings of what a regular job would be—a schedule and days off like a normal person’s world. But it’s this job. And that’s the feedback I get from the ladies [in the audience], too. ‘I can’t believe this is your job.’ Yeah, it is. This is my little contribution to this live entertainment world.”
If you haven’t seen Magic Mike Live, there’s an important surprise surrounding her performance that we won’t ruin here. But it’s very much the climax of an exceptionally steamy show and an impressive display of choreography and talent. Simply put, it’s extraordinary hotness.
“I’ve definitely worn less in other productions, so that’s cool,” jokes Garisto, whose first Vegas tour of duty came in Stomp Out Loud at Planet Hollywood. She’s been working out of LA for the past decade and has danced and contributed choreography for TV, films, award shows and concert tours like Ne-Yo’s Mr. Smith run. “In terms of content and intimacy and because it’s a partner dance … there’s a different quality here than other shows I’ve experienced. There’s no costume changes for me. It’s very raw. It’s the most intimate partnering I’ve done, for sure, but it’s really nice because my ‘Mike’—all the ‘Mikes’ are fantastically trained—but the main one I work with, Ryan [Carlson], comes from the ballet world and has this instinct I connect with from ballet. We have a way of communicating what we need from each other.”
You wouldn’t expect a woman to steal the spotlight in a show about male strippers, yet that’s exactly what Garisto does. But Magic Mike is not a show about male strippers. It’s about women, women’s fantasies and women feeling comfortable expressing those fantasies, and that mission is accomplished every night thanks to smart writing, talented male dancers, and female performers who act as friends, guides and avatars for the majority of the audience. Garisto’s backup (remember, she does get days off) is So You Think You Can Dance Australia alum Max Francisco, and the show’s alternating emcees are Chelsea Phillips-Reid and latest addition Jordan Kai Burnett.
Garisto’s scene “reels it in for everyone,” she says. “I get a lot of love from the females in the room. They are so complimentary. I feel like they think it’s them onstage. They always have the sweetest things to say, and everyone walks out of this room feeling extra lifted.”
MAGIC MIKE LIVE Wednesday-Sunday, 7:30 & 10 p.m., $54-$145. Hard Rock Hotel, 702-693-5000.