Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Two youngsters are set to steal the “One Night for One Drop: Quest for Water” benefit show staged by Cirque du Soleil despite the fact that the big star power will shine with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and pop princess Leona Lewis.
Audiences will leave the Smith Center on March 18 after they’ve seen Miles “Baby Boogaloo” Brown and Fremont Street Experience performer Drew “Redtro” Arce saying, “A star is born.”
In advance rehearsals, hardened showbiz execs and veteran performers were mesmerized by the extraordinary contortions of street-dancer Drew and captivated by 11-year-old Miles, Jack Johnson on ABC’s hit comedy “Black-ish” starring Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross.
First let’s meet 16-year-old Redtro, who takes the bus daily to Cirque rehearsals. “I’m dedicated, man,” he told me in the Zarkana theater at Aria. “I actually just got a car and now I have to get my permit, but from the beginning of rehearsals, I was taking the bus, then going back to make money dancing on Fremont Street.”
He started his unique dance moves on Fremont Street when he was 12 and saved all the money thrown by pedestrians into his bucket to put himself through school and now four years later admits:
“I could buy a couple of cars. I used it wisely. I didn’t want to waste it on stupid stuff. I wanted to invest in stuff that would make me better and help me grow in what I love to do.”
His act is freestyle: “I started off as a classical dancer. I took ballet, contemporary, jazz, I took all of that, then I gradually went into this freestyling, and I taught myself everything I know. I taught myself to do the contortionism, I taught myself popping, locking. Everything I know, I taught myself.”
Redtro moved to Las Vegas with his father and younger brother from Brooklyn, New York, to go to the performing arts K.O. Knudson Middle School. “They accepted me because I came to Las Vegas strictly to dance,” he said. I asked him when he discovered his unique contortionist talent:
“To be honest with you, I taught myself that, as well. It was a lot of stretching and yoga. I taught myself the stretches, and I did them daily. It doesn’t really hurt except like the day after if I’m sore. That’s the only time. But with my arms twisted like this behind me, I could throw myself out.
“You just called me rubber bones, but basically I’d seen contortionism on TV or on YouTube or any type of social media outlet, and it was crazy to me. But I really liked it, and since I was already dancing, I felt like I wanted to add something different that not a lot of people do.
“I get told 1,000 times a day that people wince when watching me twist my arms behind me, but I love it. I love that effect that it has.” I wanted to know at 16 years of age how it felt for him to go from being a street performer to joining the biggest dance acrobatic troupe in the world on their biggest night of the year.
“It really makes me happy. I can’t think of anything that makes me happier other than this,” he answered. “The only thing that makes me happier than this is family and life in general, and this is second on the list.
“This is beautiful to me. I want to do this for the rest of my life. This is not a dream anymore. This is real. To be honest with you, I don’t even remember my dreams. It’s all life now; it’s all real.
“I hope by doing ‘One Night for One Drop’ that it leads to a full-time gig with Cirque. Definitely. I did a job at Beacher’s Madhouse in MGM Grand for a little bit, but I was also street performing at the same time, so I’m a very busy person. I like to keep myself occupied because I like to be productive.
“This hopefully turns into a full-time gig. I’m already listed for ‘Michael Jackson One’ at Mandalay Bay for when I’m 18, but I want something they can give me now. I have a worker’s permit, and I’m pretty legal to work anywhere.
“Like I’m working here, so there’s somewhere else I know that I can work. I just need that key. I know there are younger kids at ‘The Beatles Love,’ so I’m considering that. I’m actually in the system now for Cirque jobs.”
He says that Hassan El Hajjami, director of this fourth edition of ‘One Night for One Drop,’ spotted him performing on Fremont Street. “I believed him with all my heart immediately because he was with a friend of mine. They talked to me about ‘One Drop’ and to my father, my manager.
“They said they wanted me, and it would be a door to many more things because it’s a huge event. It’s going to be big on my resume. I believed him, and I just went 100 percent with it.”
The director also called upon a longtime friend from when they both performed as rivals on “America’s Got Talent” six years ago. They wound up together on a European dance tour in Paris where they shot a music video together.
When Hassan landed the creative and directorial duties for this year’s “One Night for One Drop,” he remembered his young friend, Miles “Baby Boogaloo” Brown, who now stars on “Black-ish.”
Said Miles: “When I got the call from him for this, it was really cool. I’ve always wanted to do Cirque du Soleil. I’ve been to all the Michael Jackson shows because I’m a big fan. I just love all of the Cirque acrobats and all of their stories that they tell.”
Hassan said: “Back in Morocco, my grandmother and I had to walk for water every day because there was none in her village. When I was chosen for this year’s ‘One Drop’ show, I immediately thought of my good friend Miles.
“I knew that he would be the perfect representation of my younger self. We are grateful for his visible enthusiasm and willingness to star in our show.”
Miles continued: “I’ve known the artistic director and creator for over six years, and we just love to dance. He called me because they needed a little boy for his story, and now I’m playing him when he was a young boy in a Moroccan village in search of water for his grandmother.
“I love the story because most of it is completely true. I love lots of different stories, but especially this one because it has to do with real life. I can imagine how really hard it was to live without water. It happened to me once for a little bit.
“It’s a really crazy feeling because it’s an honor to be doing Cirque on one of the stages. A real honor. I can’t wait to meet Leona. Our rehearsal schedules haven’t synched up yet. But she sent me a message saying she watches ‘Black-ish.’ I can’t wait to meet her. Everybody tells me she’s cool, a nice lady from England.
“I haven’t seen the Smith Center yet where we’ll do the show. I heard it’s like an opera theater. I used to be nervous the entire time I was onstage, but now once I get onstage, it’s over.
“I get nervous a few seconds, my knees are like jelly, before I go on, then I’m ready. It’s different on television because there are no nerves. We feel like a real family, and it’s really comfortable to be there.”
Miles said he was 5 or 6 when he decided that he wanted to be in show business: “I was dancing before I was acting . My friend does this TV show on Nickelodeon called ‘Yo Gabba Gabba,’ and he said I could dance on it.
“I did that, and I didn’t realize that I was really acting. I thought I was just dancing onstage. That converted me over to acting. I love acting, but I still dance in the meantime. I still do that. It’s really cool.
“This is very exciting for me.”
While here for rehearsals, Miles and his father, Jack Brown, have watched Cirque’s “O” at Bellagio and “Michael Jackson One,” as well as the Jabbawockeez’s new “Jreamz” at MGM Grand.
Our interview with Catherine Bachand of One Drop will be posted before “One Night for One Drop” at the Smith Center on March 18. Tickets are on sale for the 100-performer-plus show at 1-844-33-WATER and OneDrop.org/one night.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.