Q&A: Liinda Garisto
Veteran dancer and choreographer Liinda Garisto is one of the few female performers in Magic Mike Live at the Hard Rock Hotel, the dance-centric male revue that has revolutionized its category of show in Las Vegas in the last few years. Her performance creates the climax of the show, but there’s a surprise involved that shouldn’t be spoiled here and helps heighten the sexy tension. And it is just a moment, but the Toronto native only needs a few minutes to show her skills and leave a lasting impression.
You worked as a dancer and choreographer in Los Angeles for the ten years between your Vegas gigs. What kind of work was keeping you busy during that time?
I started in Las Vegas in 2006 with Stomp Out Loud at the Aladdin, which turned into Planet Hollywood. It was funny opening here with Magic Mike because it was almost 10 years to the day we opened Stomp, so a bit of a strange homecoming. In L.A. I did TV and commercial work, live shows and tours and contributed some choreography for shows on cruise lines. I did some music videos and little things for TV shows like The Late Late Show with James Corden. Going on a concert tour with Ne-Yo was a standout for me.
Did you always want to be a professional dancer?
No but I knew I could do it early on. It was never my ultimate goal, but I just kept progressing and kept getting jobs, and it was always fun. The turning point was enrolling in a theater dance program and realizing there wasn’t going to be a plan B, it was plan A all the way.
What was it like getting the call for this special role?
It was interesting. When I first looked at the specs, it was like, OK, this is cool, there’s a twist. You never know what to expect but I thought it could be interesting to go back to Vegas and do the whole Vegas thing again and be a part of something that was really a reimagining and not a copy-and-paste from the films. It was just new on every level.
Is it odd to be one scene in one show every night?
Exactly. It has all the makings of a regular job, a schedule and clocking in and out and days off like a normal person. But it’s this job. And that’s the feedback I get from the ladies that come to see our show: “I can’t believe this is your job.” This is what I’m doing every day. This is my little contribution to this world of live entertainment.
Your presence in the show, and the fact that the emcee is also female, helps make this a male revue with a broader audience that really includes everyone.
Men like the show. They’re surprised when they come in. They hesitate at first, but there’s something about the camaraderie from the men in the show—they’re going around giving daps and being bros—that makes it feel like we’re all here together experiencing this. Whether the guys coming are husbands or boyfriends or friends, they love it, and you’ll see them cheering. Sometimes they’re the first ones to stand up.
A lot of people stand up and get pretty excited during your scene, which is one of the sexiest segments of any show in Las Vegas. Is it one of the racier performances of your career?
Yes. Well, I’ve definitely worn less in other productions, so that’s cool. (Laughs.) In terms of content and intimacy, yes, because it’s a partner dance and we’re face to face. I can’t hide behind anything. There’s a different quality here than what I’ve experienced in other shows and it’s just very raw. 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.
All the dancers in this show are so talented, and I think that’s emblematic of shows in Las Vegas overall right now. There are so many different styles of dance in different shows and so many talented artists.
I love what’s happening now in Vegas. It’s nice to see a change in the style of entertainment, the increase in residencies and just having a lot more music centered in Vegas. Vegas is always moving but it seems like it’s moving even quicker now, the energy is always going forward. It completely matches where I’m at right now.