Lifelong dancer continues to pursue her passion
A champion of dance, Anita Mann took that love and turned it into a lucrative career spanning more than four decades. The Emmy Award-winning choreographer, dancer and actress has choreographed the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Solid Gold and many other programs. You can see the results of her talent in the female revue Fantasy at Luxor, which Mann produces and choreographs. Kiko Miyasato recently sat down with Mann to discuss her incredible career.
Q: What is the favorite accolade you’ve received?
A: All the awards mean something, but I think the one that I treasure the most is my Emmy award because I’ve done TV for so many, many years (and) I received it for a show that was an honor to do. I choreographed the Miss America pageant and that year the Miss America that I was choreographing for was deaf. I had to do a special routine and the way I had to present it to her, and be a mirror for her while it was live—it was a challenge. The fact that we pulled it off like that and actually got an Emmy was pretty remarkable for me.
Q: What has been your favorite project?
A: My favorite project was working with Jim Henson on The Great Muppet Caper. It was a film that we shot in England and I got to sit with Jim and Frank Oz and create things from scratch that were magical. Working with those two minds and the energy in the room and creativity in that room … It was pretty remarkable for me, it was special.
Q: Who are some favorite stars you’ve worked with?
A: It’s a tie between three people: Lucille Ball, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. Those three were at the top of their craft in what they did and I learned so much from all three of them. But I’m leaving out so many other people that I love … but those three people were really memorable.
Q: And which decade tops your list?
A: Actually, my very favorite decade of music and dance and performing was the ’60s. That music to me is just classic; it’s just my favorite music. Every time I hear a song from the ’60s I just have to dance—it just gets me moving!
Q: What makes Fantasy stand-out from the rest of the Las Vegas revues?
A: There are other revues like Fantasy, and they keep popping up. Vegas is the home of showgirls, so we have competition that we deal with every day. It’s like golf when they say “relate to par,” like you can’t think about all the other people on the course when you’re playing golf. So what I relate to every single night that I see the show—I think how can I make it better, we don’t settle for anything except the absolute best show that we can do every night. And I think what makes it special is that we look at it from the point of view of the audience: it’s expensive to go out and buy that ticket, and I think what can we give them for the most bang for their buck? And, for a little show like Fantasy, it is jam-packed: a singer, a comedian, eight dancers and it’s nonstop energy. I always like to say, “What can they see in Vegas that they can’t back home?” I always try and make sure that the quality and variety meets their expectations. If I’m not satisfied every time I see the show, I fix it. I never let the cast not rise every night to their fullest.
Q: Did you ever imagine your passion would take you this far?
A: I knew there was no other choice for me but to dance; it was going to be my passion in life. … To what degree I didn’t know. But I knew, from the time I was able to pick a job, there was no other choice. When I walked into my first big professional job when I was in high school, and it was a film, Bye Bye Birdie, and they had all these dancers in the scene … I’m standing on the set looking at where they put the lights, where the camera was going, what the director was doing, what the choreographer was doing—I was hooked. I know in my heart that’s what I wanted to do, but getting it was just a blessing and I appreciate it every single day.
Q: What’s your advice for those seeking the same career?
A: I like to help and mentor people. The best advice that I can give is: Have the tenacity to just stay with it. But, I think the most important advice is to know that you have to do it on your own; you can’t rely on someone else handing it to you. You have to go out, beat the pavement and study your craft. Make yourself the best you can be at your craft. Don’t feel entitled and that you deserve anything. It’s how can I make myself better every day at what I do.
Q: What is it that you love most about your craft?
A: I think the freedom of movement and expression. It’s one of the oldest forms of communication and I think that every culture has expression through their dance and music. It’s a language. For me, I walked into a dance studio, my mom said, and I never left … I was born to dance.