March 7, 2009
A 25-year-old Waterloo native becomes the choreographer with the Toronto Raptors cheerleading squad, then joins Bette Midler’s glitzy revue at Caesars Palace — working one on one with the star
When she was just a little girl, Amberley Waddell would twirl and leap around her living room while belting out show tunes in her best Bette Midler impression.
Nowadays, she twirls and leaps around a Las Vegas stage while Bette Midler herself belts out show tunes just an arm’s length away.
“Isn’t it weird?” muses 25-year-old Waddell, a Waterloo native who is now a lead choreographer and dancer in Midler’s glitzy revue at Caesars Palace.
It is indeed pretty weird that Waddell’s job description now includes critiquing and fine-tuning Midler’s dancing — something Waddell never would have imagined while she was learning her moves at Bojangles Dance Arts in Kitchener.
“I work with Bette one on one, and I’m always helping Bette with anything she needs,” says Waddell, “and she’s the first to ask for help with choreography.”
It was by no mere fluke that Waddell made her way to the stages of Las Vegas, but rather through endless hours of practice and competition on the North American dance circuit.
She trained in New York City at prestigious Broadway dance academies, and was crowned Miss Dance of Canada by the Dance Masters of America.
By the time she was 18 she had landed a spot as dancer and choreographer with the Toronto Raptors cheerleading squad. It’s a job she continues to do whenever the Midler show is on hiatus.
But when the Midler show is in full swing, Waddell is working 12-hours a day, six days a week, constantly tweaking the choreography for each night’s exhausting performance.
And there’s plenty to tweak, given the over-the-top grandeur of the show (one number requires Midler and her 18 showgirls to dance while wearing mermaids’ tails, which is trickier than it sounds).
Waddell had only been living in Los Angeles for a year or so when she saw a call for auditions for the Midler show a year and a half ago.
“I was always such a fan of Bette since I was a kid, so I was not going to miss that audition,” Waddell recalls.
Hundreds of other dancers had similar aspirations, however, which made for a highly competitive selection process, through which Waddell survived one cut after another.
When the group was whittled down to a final 100, Midler herself arrived to oversee the proceedings, causing a few butterflies to flit about Waddell’s stomach.
“When a legend like Bette walks into a room you’re bound to be nervous,” she says. “She has such charisma.”
And it seems Waddell has no shortage of charisma herself, as she was named among the 18 lucky showgirls who would become members of Midler’s troupe.
She hopes that charisma will carry her to different work in Hollywood when the Midler show wraps up in 2010, and she is already dabbling in TV and film work.
Until then, though, Waddell is soaking up every moment she’s onstage with her childhood idol.
“Working with Bette Midler is definitely the highlight of my career so far,” she says. “Right now I’m living my dream job, and I’m excited to see where else it will take me.”