Las Vegas Le Rêve: James Santos’ Dream Come True

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.


Melissa Gulden

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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