The dance monster

Lesley Bandy

Photo By Jimmy Boegle

Lesley Bandy says she’s done “almost everything” in her dance career. And that’s no exaggeration. The New Zealand native had an amazing career as a ballet and cabaret dancer, appearing in almost every performance you can imagine. She’s been a director and choreographer, worked as an entertainment manager for several casino properties and served as artistic director for dance companies including the Nevada Festival Ballet. She and her husband, John Robert Beardsley, are working with the Nevada Shakespeare Festival right now, although Lesley’s main project is the new troupe Taniwha Dance. She’s lived in Reno “this time” for 2 1/2 years; she first came here and worked with Hello Hollywood Hello from 1978-1986. Bandy can be reached at

What in the heck is a Taniwha?

It’s a water monster or a guardian of an area of water or a river. It’s a Maori word from New Zealand.

Sounds kind of scary.

Yeah! I am also known as the Halloween Queen. I produced Halloween for MGM [Grand Las Vegas’ theme park] and Universal Studios Florida for several years. That means making the parks into a Halloween nightmare, including ghouls and ghosties. I like monsters. I think I must have been related to Henry VIII or something.

Isn’t a water monster kind of inappropriate for drought-stricken Reno?

I came up with the water thing possibly because I’m a water person. Plus, this used to be all under an inland sea. I grew up by the sea in New Zealand, and Reno has a sister city there called Wanganui. Taniwha sounded right, actually.

What should we expect from Taniwha Dance?

In two words: eclectic and entertaining. I like it all. I can’t say I just want to do ballets or just modern dance. I like a lot of change, and audiences today like a lot of change, too. It’s going to be all sorts of stuff.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done in your career?

Well, several things come to mind. One of them was our Halloween show in Las Vegas at the MGM. We did a show in which we’d go through the entire year of People magazine, and we made a list of scandals and overplayed songs we could no longer stand. Like that Toni Braxton song, “Unbreak My Heart.” We then put together a show in which we killed off the people who had annoyed us through the year. We’d shoot them, hang them, decapitate them …

Monsters, killing … you’ve made me nervous.

You should be.

OK, then. One more question before I flee: You’ve worked with a lot of legends. Tell me one who really pissed you off.

I honestly can’t think of anyone. Even some who started off a little bit odd have joined me for champagne in the end. I will tell you, though, that the first person who ever kissed me was [Luciano] Pavarotti, when I was a mere child.

Wow. Was he a good kisser?

I don’t remember. It scared me silly; it was my first kiss. I think I ran.

Well, if Pavarotti kissed me, I’d run, too.

Yeah. I can see that.