In Vegas, even water dances

Posted by on Feb 8th, 2012 and filed under Attractions, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

water_fountainsYou may dance the night away in Vegas, but you’ll still marvel at the moves at the Fountains at Bellagio.

These fountains are simply breathtaking. When I’m in traffic on the Strip, this is the one spot where I don’t mind being stuck. And whenever I have visitors in town, it’s one of the coolest attractions to take them to — it’s gorgeous, ever-changing and best of all, free!

WET Design, the world-famous water design firm responsible for the Fountains at Bellagio, The Volcano at Mirage and the water features at Aria, takes water shows to the next level. At The Fountains at Bellagio, not only can you watch a spectacular dancing water show, but the style changes every 30 minutes (every 15 minutes after 7 p.m.).

“This fountain brings people of all ages, all different cultures together,” Claire Kahn, a designer for WET said.  ”They all seem to love it and are moved by it equally. It’s a destination.”

Since the genres range from classic to popular music and show tunes, you can hang around and see something different from the last time.

There are more than 30 different songs that play on rotation. Songs include Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” and  Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s “Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye),” among others.  

The two latest ones are Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and The Beatles’ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

“When music is familiar, you really like it,” said Kahn, who worked on the latest Beatles piece.

Bellagio FountainsWET Design’s experts determine how well the songs choreograph and the quality of the music. Kahn explained the firm submits a song list for the clients to choose from. Clients consider what works best for its venue and audience.

Range is important. The best ones are the songs that start off quiet and have a big finish.

“It’s really fun when there’s variety in music,” said Kahn. “The Bellagio gets so big, you want to take advantage. You can imagine if the song has one kind of rhythm and never changes. [But] if the song is huge all the way through, it can become irritating.”

Behind the Fountain
In addition to carefully-selected song choices, these dancing waters are truly a work of art. “WET has always been constantly inventing and exploring new technology, new design,” Kahn said. “We do very innovative things all the time. That’s our main interest. “

These projects call for a team of experts. Kahn oversees the designs from an architectural standpoint.

Before joining WET in 1985, Kahn worked for a commercial architecture firm as a pattern and textile designer.  Pattern and textile design are key elements that make the water shows so beautiful and spectacular.

bellagiofountain2“When you have a background in landscape architecture, you can bring something effective,” she said. “This is helpful in the Fountains at Bellagio — thousands of units [nozzles] come together to create one large expression, one large chase.

“[Like] choreography,” she continued, “the stage is full of dancers, each one doing something that contributes to a larger scale. That’s exactly what the fountain is doing.”

In addition to Kahn’s pattern expertise on the project, there is also a technical director and a director of choreography who contributed to the project.

“We get a lot of feedback from each other,” she said. “We work together, we give each other input. In the end, we’re responsible for our own work.”

Kahn surprised me when she said WET doesn’t exactly hire fountain or water experts. The firm hires designers from every category, including graphic landscape, pattern and textile as well as stage designers and even choreographers.

“We do things differently than your typical water feature designing firm,” Kahn said. “We get our richness from [different] backgrounds of all the people that work there. It’s really great, very different.”

To create one masterpiece show, it takes typically three to four weeks, with most of that time spent on site. The design team starts by sketching it from the computer. Going to the Bellagio to finish the piece is crucial.

“I’ve seen it intimately,” she said. “You have to work in the medium. You can’t work in a medium that simulates it. You have to be watching the water.”

fountain4A rewarding experience

While the project itself takes about a month, Kahn said everything happens in tiny steps.

“It’s a very interesting and incremental process,” she said. ”Every day you’re polishing it, subtly changing it. It doesn’t happen all at once. Then there’s a moment in the end when it clicks.”

The biggest reward? The Fountains bringing so many together.

“There must be something about this fountain that brings all kinds of people,” said Kahn. “It thrills a little child and an older person equally. The beauty of this water, familiarity of music, the kind of surprise that water can do…it’s a number of different things that come together to bring a single, big emotional response. That’s joyous.”

Fun facts:

  • The water in the Bellagio lake could fill 2,000 swimming pools.
  • The fill time is worth 21 days of lake supply – with a garden hose, it would take more than a year!
  • The fountain shooters can shoot higher than a 24-story building.
  • The lake area is 375,000 square feet, equivalent to three city blocks (or eight football fields).
  • Maximum water in air at any time: More than 17,000 gallons
  • Length of lake: 1,100 feet

(Information courtesy of WET Design)

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