Former Gymnasts Celebrate Three Years In Vegas
Aug. 24, 2010
SEATTLE - When Chelsea Bakken was nearing her senior year as a gymnast at UW, she never imagined she would end up performing in Las Vegas. Now, along with her former Husky teammate Kelly McDonald, she is celebrating her three-year anniversary as a cast member of Le Reve.
Originally from Mesa, Ariz., Bakken had a standout career as a Husky, as she became the first Washington gymnast since 2004 to earn a spot at the NCAA Championships. She placed 26th at the 2007 Nationals, where she topped 9.725 on all four events and earned a 38.975, the third-highest score of her collegiate career.
Halfway through her senior season, her plan was to stay in Seattle and get into sports administration and eventually get into college coaching. Never even her wildest dreams did she imagine she would be where she is now.
"I didn't know about the show at all," Bakken admits. "I never planned on performing or anything."
It all began when head UW coach Joanne Bowers got an e-mail from the casting director at Le Reve as they were looking for seniors to audition.
"Joanne encouraged me to do it," Bakken said. "I got in contact with Le Reve through e-mail but it was during the season so I didn't have time to fly to Vegas and audition. The casting director was going to be at Nationals talking to other seniors so that's when I decided to audition in Salt Lake City."
Bakken competed at Nationals and the next day completed a swim, dance and strength test for her audition.
"I already had a job lined up for the summer to work a show at Sea World so I asked La Reve if I could start in September and that was perfect for them. It wasn't what I expected but it all fell into place."
Although McDonald was a year ahead of Bakken at UW, the two joined La Reve the exact same day. Bakken explains how she talked McDonald into auditioning and joining her in Vegas.
"Kelly was spending her fifth year studying abroad in Spain," Bakken added. "When I was at Sea World we talked about how I got the job. She thought it was cool and I wanted her to audition. She said she would think about it and then she called me a week later and wanted to move forward. I gave her the casting director's info and she planned on auditioning in a year because she needed to train, but she started to train with Joanne and set up an audition right away and got the job."
The show itself is at the Wynn on the strip. Although it's an acrobatic act, it is not affiliated with Cirque Du Soleil. La Reve has been running for five years and is owned by Steven Wynn. It got started in Belgium by Franco Dragone.
La Reve means "the dream in French." It's about a girl who comes back from a date and dreams the whole show. She dreams about a dream man and dream prince and she has to choose. The prince is the evil one and the man is innocent. In the end she picks the man. It's all about the dream and the main girl is the dreamer.
Bakken and McDonald are both acrobats or generalists. They are two of approximately 90 cast members, with 200 other staff members and 15 scuba divers behind the scenes. Every cast member has to become scuba certified.
The entire show is over a pool at the Wynn on a circular stage which moves 25 feet up and down. Bakken is in an 80 foot harness above the water and drops 55 feet into a pool. She also spins on a table in the air. McDonald is with three other girls and they move up and down and throw a ball in the air.
"The hardest part wasn't learning the dancing it was the acting and emotional part of the show," Bakken said. "We are really involved with the audience. They can see our faces so we have to be in character. Each act has a different feeling and emotion. I play a character - Amazon Gris - seductive warrior."
La Reve performs two shows a night, five days a week. They get two big breaks during the year and two mini breaks where the show is completed silent.
Both women just signed another year contract with La Reve. And while they are definitely busy, Bakken hopes to make it back to Seattle for the intersquad meet or to her home state of Arizona when the Dawgs travel there in the regular season.
To view more about the show, click here: http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/#entertainment/leReve/.