LAS VEGAS — Hours before she was killed, Debora Flores Narvaez was rehearsing what was supposed to be the performance of her young life.
The ambitious entertainer had persuaded R&B singer Sisqo to do a guest stint at "Fantasy," the burlesque show on the Las Vegas Strip where she had performed since 2009.
The two spent the day perfecting the routine, thrusting their hips and spinning their feet to the beat of his hit "Thong Song."
"Yeah, just slap it," Flores Narvaez, 31, said in a video as she coached Sisqo at one point, demonstrating with a playful tap on her derriere.
The next night, however, she missed the opening of the show, shocking her roommate, who called 911. The body of Flores Narvaez was found last week.
More than 100 friends, family members and cast-mates recalled Flores Narvaez’s drive and hard work Friday during a memorial for the slain dancer whose body was found dismembered and encased in cement at a Las Vegas home last week. Her former boyfriend is being held without bail in the alleged crime.
"Fantasy" producer Anita Mann described Flores Narvaez as a perfectionist, eager to make her mark in the Las Vegas entertainment world during the hourlong memorial held on the show’s stage at the Luxor hotel and casino. The video of the Sisqo rehearsal was played during the gathering for Flores Narvaez’s family, who never saw her perform onstage.
The dancer left a career in finance in Maryland two years ago to follow her showgirl dreams. Unfazed by her limited training, she strutted into auditions and demanded roles. She suggested costume changes to producers and followed up with notes critiquing her castmates mistakes — a misplaced hand, a forgotten step.
Angelo Giordano, who produced the "Voices" show where Flores Narvaez worked for eight months in 2009, recalled the dancer’s willfulness and ambition with a laugh during the memorial.
"We would have debates about fishnets two minutes before the show. I would put my foot down: ‘Everyone is wearing fishnets,’" he said. "The show would open and Debbie wouldn’t be wearing fishnets."
If a celebrity visited the show, Flores Narvaez would suddenly tweak the choreography so she could shimmy up to the famous person’s seat and ensure they had an unobstructed view of her skilled dancing, Giordano said.
Friends said she paid their bills without prompting if they were in need and offered to fight for them in court when they got traffic tickets.
"Everything you needed, she was there full out, every time," said roommate Sonya Sonnenberg, who reported Flores Narvaez missing Dec. 14.
Police said Jason Griffith, 32, strangled her during an argument at his house after her rehearsal with Sisqo. Later, Griffith sawed off her legs and tried to hide the body in plastic tubs filled with concrete, authorities said.
The victim’s older sister, Celeste Flores Narvaez, vowed to follow the criminal case through its conclusion during the service Friday.
"I will make sure that the worthless person who did this to her will get his," she said.