Life in the chorus line

Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Soula Fieldhouse performs in "The Spirit of Christmas" at the Eldorado Hotel Casino in Reno Thursday night.

Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Soula Fieldhouse performs in "The Spirit of Christmas" at the Eldorado Hotel Casino in Reno Thursday night.

When you go to meet a chorus girl for an interview, you sort of expect a busty blonde chewing gum. At least, that's the stereotype. But sitting down with Soula Fieldhouse, a 27-year-old dancer in the Eldorado Hotel Casino's "Spirit of Christmas" show in Reno, quickly changes that picture.

Fieldhouse is a slim woman who has danced around much of the world. She was wearing dancer's warm-up attire: Long, fingerless wool gloves, thick socks, a wrap, tight blue jeans and a pleasant but not broad smile.

She's a little over 5-feet tall with long brown hair and soft brown eyes. Her dress size is 8, "but that's in the U.K."

Her official weight is 54 kilograms or 119 pounds.

She's from Birmingham, England, and has been dancing professionally for 10 years.

Fieldhouse has trained and worked professionally in ballet, tap, jazz, Irish and hip-hop. She also has piano and music theory training and some singing and acting experience. Fieldhouse also speaks Italian, not exactly a requirement for a dancer.

She appears in "Spirit of Christmas," through this month, where she dances with the chorus line and does a ballet turn, all the while acting as dance captain for the troupe.

"Oh, I just make sure things look all right, the costumes are correct, the props in place." she said in a soft, unaccented voice.

"Americans have accents, the British do not," she noted.

There are 10 women dancers and they, along with matching male dancers, appear seven times a week for the 75-minute show, twice on Saturday night with a day off on Mondays.

There are many quick costume changes, "So we don't have much time to wait around and chat." Some of the dance sequences are from earlier shows but there's always a new routine to learn. The dance steps are not of the touring Chinese acrobatic level, but athleticism is required.

"I do 40 minutes of warm-up before each show," she said.

• • •

How did she get started in the dance business?

"I studied all the time while I was going to school, all day at school and then the night at the studio. I didn't really plan to be a dancer, but I love it, so what's better than working at what you love?"

She started reading the professional casting call sheets and tried out for a couple of shows before landing a spot. Once she was in one show, it "was easy to get in more. Once the producers know you they call and you go."

After 10 years she shows no sign of tiring. No marriage plans or significant other. "I'll keep going as long as the body will let me," she said, looking as trim as a runway model and as fit as a tennis pro.

There's no automatic retirement age for dancers, just time on the legs adding up like pro football players.

Life on the road is modestly restrictive - no skiing or snowboarding, for instance.

"But we get time to look around the cities we play, and this show is right on the heels of 'Dancing Queen,' where I appeared." This was one of the rare occasions where she was able to make a local friend. After the Thanksgiving weekend she had three days off to visit Las Vegas.

The cast of such shows usually stays in furnished apartments for the length of the show and dines mostly at the casino. Pay for a line dancer is about 200 pounds, or $500. But most expenses are paid while in a show.

"You have to like change to dance as I do. I'm not tired of it yet and don't see quitting. Most girls go into teaching after leaving show business, but some hang in into their late 30s. Most of the girls in the show are in their early 20s," she said.

This will be her third Christmas away from England and family, but she plans to fly home after this show closes.

And then?

"There's always another show out there."

• Contact Sam Bauman at sbauman or 881-1236.


In her 10 years as a professional Soula Fieldhouse has appeared in many shows including:

• "Dancing Queen" at Bally's casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

• "Christmas" at the Musikal theater Bremen, Germany

• "Spirit of the Dance" Spanish and U.K. tour 2006;

• "I Can't Stop Loving You - the genius of Ray Charles" U.K tour

• "Spirit of Christmas" at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City and at the Kodak Theatre, Hollywood, Calif.

• "Spirit of the Dance" at Le Cabaret Monte Carlo

• "Jimmy Osmond Christmas Show" at the Branson Variety Theatre in Branson, Mo.

• U.S tour of central Italy with L'Arcobaleno dance company

• "Born to Rock" and "Bon Voyage" on board the cruise ship Costa Tropicale

• "Cinderella" at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, U.K.

• "West End Experience" and "Rock Don't Stop" on the MS Silja Serenade cruise ship

• "The Chuckle Brothers" U.K tours 1999 and 2000;

• "Broadway at the Park," Wrotham Park for Brian Rogers

• "Choreographers Ball 2006" Hammersmith Palais, London, for Gary Lloyd.


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