Las Vegas Le Rêve: James Santos’ Dream Come True

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In October of 2010, Redding’s own dance and theater phenom James Santos embarked on a new direction in his life: He went on tour with Cirque de Soleil as assistant artistic director for one of its shows, Dralion. This past March, Las Vegas’ Wynn Hotel offered James the position of Artistic Director for Le Rêve, meaning he could finally be in one place with his family.

Although touring gave Santos exposure to the world, his goal was always to get back to his family. James’ partner, Brian Catanio, and their two children had relocated to Las Vegas in June of 2011.

And now Santos is third in charge at the Wynn—a feat sometimes not even he can believe. “I imagined it and dreamt about it, but it didn’t always mean I believed I could do it,” he says. “Sometimes I had to trick myself into believing.”

The Dance Project provided Santos an entry into the business of running a company, and Redding embraced shows such as “A Cascade Christmas” and the spring dance revues. But when it was time for Santos to spread his wings, he knew it was time to call it a wrap.

And now his sights are set high, overseeing Le Rêve. French for “The Dream,” it’s a magical show full of aerial acrobatics and artistic athleticism rarely seen on the stage. The show is held in an intimate aqua theatre-in-the-round, where dozens of breathtaking sights fill the senses.

The show originally opened in 2005, the same year the Wynn opened its doors. Created by Franco Dragone, the show began as images and along the way, the storyline has developed and become pivotal in the show.

Santos has been able to hold creative license and has added new costumes, lighting, music and new acts.

“Le Rêve was created by Franco Dragone, but over the years the show has been touched by so many people,” Santos explains. “Vegas has changed over seven years. When a show runs for ten years, it has to evolve. And that’s what we’re doing—we’re allowing the show to grow. And that’s why people keep coming back.”

The international cast of more than 90 athletes and entertainers captures the imagination with their strength and agility. From a thrilling high-dive to synchronized swimmers doing the tango in red high heels, Le Rêve is mesmerizing from beginning to end. Throughout the show, comedy and dance interweave with athleticism for an awe-inspiring experience. And Maksim Chmerkovskiy of “Dancing with the Stars” fame choreographed the ballroom sequence. There are synchronized swimmers, acrobats, gymnasts, and many other impressive artists, many of whom are award-winning champions in their sport.

“These kinds of shows allow athletes to continue their passion,” says Santos. “For a lot of them they’re done competing, then what? Doing two shows a day is nothing compared to the extensive training they’re all used to.”

It’s a feast for the eyes, as dozens of performers pop up all around you—dangling impressively in the air from various contraptions, popping up from the water directly in front of any one of the more than 1600 seats in the beautiful theater designed by world-renowned architects and set designers, and Tony-award-winning lighting designers.

Backstage is just as impressive as the crew of 200 help make the magic happen in wardrobe (66 pairs of red shoes are repainted daily), laundry service (95 loads of laundry per night, as 1,600 towels are used), and underwater crew (16 divers aid the performers and change elements underwater.) The pool holds 1.1 million gallons of water, which is 27 feet deep and held at 89 degrees.

You truly have to see it to believe it. As for Santos, “The Dream” most certainly has become a reality.

 Le Rêve runs Friday through Tuesday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at the Wynn Las Vegas.

For tickets, call (702) 770-9966.



Melissa Gulden is a Redding native and teacher at University Preparatory School. She has a love of reading and writing and hopes to pass that along to her students. She is a monthly contributor for Enjoy Magazine, and will soon be pursuing her PhD in English Education. In her off time, you can catch Melissa (literally—she’s pretty slow) in her neon running shoes on many of Redding’s trails.


earned her B.A. in journalism and her M.A. in English from CSU-Chico. She spent time in Las Vegas working as a college English instructor and a magazine writer and editor. She teaches at University Preparatory School in Redding, performs in local theatre and writes for Enjoy Magazine.
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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Sheila Barnes says:

    We in Redding miss you James, but we are also proud of you and your continuing accomplishments!

  2. So glad to get this update – what a great gig for James and his lucky family. Wishing him a long, successful, joyful run at the Wynn.

  3. Avatar Gerrine says:

    Maybe we give him a visit from the Hometown folks. Such a delight.

  4. Avatar Sally says:

    Happy, happy, happy for you. Have caught glimpses of you, Brian and your children on facebook so figured you were living in Las Vegas, but didn't know how. We have always known of your exceptional talent so are thrilled the rest of the world may benefit from a part of it. Brian's weight loss is phenomenal. He looks great! Of course Redding will never forget you and the joy your work brought to a proud community. I saw pictures of Leah Hernandez who once worked for me in a yogurt shop. She still is beautiful and I wish her well. Tell her "hello".

  5. Avatar Judy Salter says:

    This is simply astounding. I am so very proud of you. Love seeing the pictures of Brian and the kids on FB. You make a beautiful family.

  6. Avatar AJ says:

    You know what Sally said above?? yeah . . . well, AMEN about ten times over. I would like to say that I could foresee this while watching James dance out at the college while he was still in college. I couldn't s predict anything quite this specific, but it was obvious that he had the where-with-all to move into a world far beyond th stage he held in Redding. Makes me sad for our loss, but ecstatic for James and his whole family.

    Would love to touch base when I'm there the first week-end in October. Maybe lunch or coffee or some such . . . .

  7. Avatar Philbert says:

    Super cool. A road trip to catch the show seems appropriate!

  8. Avatar Cheri says:

    My husband and I saw James in the production of Dralion when the show performed in Madison, WI. at Easter time last year. The program was beautiful. Hopefully we will be able to see LeReve too. Congratulations on your promotion, James.

  9. Avatar Grammalyn says:

    My family had the pleasure of seeing Dralion last year and getting a backstage tour with James. I hope that we will be able to get to Las Vegas to see this show as well. I'm so very proud of James and Brian for so many reasons, and am delighted that things are going so well for their family.

  10. Avatar Robb says:

    Wonderful story about a talented, funny and kind man. I had the pleasure of seeing him in action years ago at Shasta College, and he continues to impress me. It's great when genuinely nice and thoughtful people succeed. I watched him work with the cast on Bye Bye Birdie, and he was able coax an outstanding performance out of even the most nervous and inexperienced dancers. He's just amazing.