LE REVE PERFORMER FULFILLS HIS OWN DREAM
By Marla Santos
Le Rêve—The Dream has been playing in Las Vegas for 10 years, and has been named the No. 1 show in the city. It’s no wonder that this aquatic masterpiece at the Wynn Las Vegas is such a success. The remarkably talented cast performs synchronized swimming routines, dances in the water while aerialists fly through the air, and divers leap from up to 80 feet above the pool. They put on an absolutely breathtaking performance. During the 10 years Le Rêve has run, more than 5.2 million people from all over the world have seen it.
Le Rêve’s multi-talented cast member, Benoit Beaufils, took a brief leave of absence last month to fulfill his own dream. He left for Kazan, Russia, to compete for his home country of France in the FINA World Championship for synchronized swimming. This is the first time that FINA, the international governing authority for aquatic sports, has added a mixed duet to the 2015 world championships, and a first for men, who can now compete.
Performing in Le Rêve nightly for 10 years as a swimmer and acrobat, Benoit Beaufils hasn’t competed nationally for 17 years. After performing on France’s national championship swimming team, and then realizing he could accomplish nothing further, because men were not allowed to compete with women in the Olympics, at the age of 18, he decided to move to the United States. Since he left France, no one has surpassed his skills, and he is still considered to be one of the top accomplished male synchronized swimmers in the world. When the mixed duet was added, Beaufils was contacted by France’s national team coach and asked if he’d be willing to represent France and compete with Virginie Dedieu. “I didn’t hesitate for a minute,” said Beaufils. Dedieu is France’s best and most decorated swimmer, plus she won the bronze medal in the women’s duet at the 2000 Summer Olympics. “It was 100 percent a dream come true.”
SMARTY: How long have you been swimming?
BEAUFILS: I’ve been swimming since I was 7 years old. I competed for France until I was about 20 years old and I’ve been in Vegas since then.
SMARTY: With you working nightly at Le Rêve, and Virginie living and working in France, how did you train?
BEAUFILS: We trained separately for nine months. We recorded our training sessions on video and sent them to each other via the Internet. We had about five or six training sessions together. Getting into shape for the last nine months was a lot of work. I said yes without any hesitation, but a week after the workouts and doing the show at night, I realized what I had gotten myself into. Besides, when I said yes, my daughter was only a week old and I didn’t realize how complicated and demanding life would become.
“ Now I’m in better shape than ever. I have stamina, endurance, and strength like I used to when I was younger.”
SMARTY: At 37, you are older than some of your challengers. Did you ever see that as a problem?
BEAUFILS: The youngest teams from Russia, Italy and Spain were in their late teens or early twenties. I remember my stamina when I was 18 and I was unstoppable. We had to be a lot smarter in the way we choreographed the routine, so we’d be able to run it all the way through. I think the difference with the older performers is that we have more experience as far as performing goes. Personally, in the last 17 years, I feel I’ve developed quite a good acting skill. That’s what we really tried to put in our number, basing the choreography about the relationship between a man and a woman, more than just applying just technique and same arm movements. Instead, we went for more of a “pas de deux” (dance for two) that you would see in dance. The younger teams put a lot of emphasis on technique. I think our strong point was definitely our artistry. Virginie has always been known for how beautiful an actress she was in the water. I think that’s what also attracted our coach to me. Virginie has a unique form, and every time the coach came to see me in the show, she saw what a chameleon I was, because Le Rêve requires a lot of versatility in the acting. In some acts you’re a very strong warrior, then you’re a lover, the next you’re a jealous man. You have to put your acting skills to work. That’s why I’m very thankful for Le Rêve. The show has given me a lot of versatility in this aspect.
SMARTY: Nightly, when you swim in Le Rêve, what is the temperature of the pool and does that differ from the pool in which you will swim in Russia?
BEAUFILS: The pool here at Wynn is kept at 89 degrees. Some of us have to be in the water for the entire show, so it would be quite challenging if the pool was 82 or 81, the way they are in a municipal pool. In Russia, the temperature was about 80-81 degrees.
SMARTY: How tall are you and Virginie, and did the height present an advantage or disadvantage?
BEAUFILS: I’m 5’8” and I think she’s 5’6”. An advantage? Yes and no. If she was shorter, she would also be lighter, and with all the lifting that we do in the routine, it would be easier. She’s also so skinny. She’s very, very thin, even though she’s had two children; she came back in amazing shape. It’s easy to lift her, because she’s less than 100 pounds, so it’s not that difficult for me.
SMARTY: Who picked the music for your routine?
BEAUFILS: The song choice was a very important decision. The three of us: the coach, Virginie and I had a lot of input and decided on the music. Then it became very inspirational to our whole choreograph, in general.
SMARTY: What acrobatic things do you do in Le Rêve?
BEAUFILS: I don’t do the high diving; I do a lot of the high flying. I’m an aerialist, so I do the rope number, which comes from 80 feet up in the air. I do most of my routine at about 40-50 feet above the pool. Being a synchronized swimmer was great, and the next step was moving to an aerial job, and my favorite part of Le Rêve has been able to fly every night. Because of some of the high-flying acrobatics I do, I have to train at least once a week.
SMARTY: Do you have a special diet while you’re training?
BEAUFILS: Getting older, your metabolism slows down, so I was trying to be very careful. The good thing now, swimming 4 hours a day, I’m constantly hungry. Now I can eat pretty much whatever I want and stay very fit. It was a big adjustment when I was done with the competition. It’s been really hard to watch what I eat again.
Beaufils and his partner, who performs in Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere at Treasure Island, have a 10-month-old daughter together named Siella. They both traveled to Russia to cheer him on.
Benoit Beaufils explained that he hoped that these championships open the door to mixed duet eventually becoming an Olympic event. “I don’t think it’s going to happen in time for Brazil. That’s only a year away,” he says. “But I think there’s a very decent chance for Tokyo (in 2020).”