In the scintillating oasis of Las Vegas, where the glitz of showbiz royalty like Carmen Miranda and Danny Thomas reigned supreme, a new luminary was rising—an ingenue of water and light. “Plain, ordinary water,” as described by a United Press wire story from May 3, 1955. But in the hands of visionaries, this elemental substance was transformed into the star of an extravagant ballet that enchanted all who witnessed its performance. The protagonist of this watery spectacle was none other than the “Dancing Waters”—a jaw-dropping fountain show at the heart of the Royal Nevada Hotel.

Before the famed Bellagio fountains ever danced along the Strip, “Dancing Waters” had already captivated audiences with its hypnotic performance back in 1955. It wasn’t merely an attraction; it was a headlining act, a beacon for the brand-new resort that demanded the price of admission for the rapture of its dance—a stark contrast to the free shows later spectators would relish at the Bellagio.

Nightly in the Crown Room theater, this liquid marvel commanded the stage’s spotlight, backed stunningly by an orchestra’s melody. Soprano Helen Traubel and comedian Dave Barry, eminent in their own right, found themselves as the warm-up acts to this unorthodox star.

Picture the scene: attendees clutching coveted tickets, the lights dimming, and the baton rising, not just for the performers, but for the water itself. As the orchestra played, the audience would be mesmerized by the vibrant hues and the water as it performed the mambo, waltz, and jaunty hops—an aquatic symphony choreographed by light and motion.

“The audience often watches him [Hans Hasslach] instead of the water,” the UP report outlined, referring to one-half of the mastermind duo behind “Dancing Waters.” Hans Hasslach, alongside German engineer Otto Przystawik, crafted this wonder. Before the age of sophisticated computer systems, Hasslach masterfully manipulated an intricate console with 400 switches and buttons, weaving through 10,000 feet of wiring like a maestro before his orchestra.

This console, akin to a recording studio’s mixing desk, commanded the surge of 19 powerful engines. Four thousand jet streams danced at Hasslach’s fingertips, sending up to five tons of water soaring 50 feet above, a testament to engineering marvel and artistic vision combined.

The Royal Nevada proudly declared itself “the Home of the Dancing Waters,” but it was merely one among 10 to 12 such fountain systems installed across the United States. These displays would occasionally grace the stage at Radio City Music Hall, drawing in nearly a million and a half people over an eight-week stint.

Yet, as the fortunes of the entertainers and establishments of Las Vegas fluctuated, so too did the fate of the Royal Nevada. Despite the struggle and intermittent closures over the years, the Royal Nevada would ultimately succumb, repurposed as the Stardust Auditorium before facing demolition in 2007, making way for the new Resorts World.

“Dancing Waters” continued to bring liquid life to venues far and wide—from the Southern California Exposition to the New York World’s Fair, gracing even the Las Vegas Hilton in tandem with the legendary Liberace during his residency. A Disneyland Hotel amphitheater became the permanent stage for one system until 1992 when it was supplanted by “Waltzing Waters,” a show conceived by the original designer’s strain of innovation.

The legacy of Hans Hasslach fades into obscurity without digital or newsprint testament. Yet, the lineage of aquatic artistry lives on through Michael Przystawik, Otto’s son. He carries forth the family’s creative flame, orchestrating “Liquid Fireworks” for audiences who still seek the enchantment of water’s intricate ballet—a last homage to an act that forever changed the landscape of entertainment and the night skies of Las Vegas.

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Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson, a Senior Editor and respected voice in iGaming and sports, brings over a decade of journalism experience with a focus on digital gaming and cryptocurrency. Starting in sports analysis, he now leads a team of writers, delivering insightful and advanced content in the dynamic world of online gaming. An avid gamer and crypto-enthusiast, Mark's unique perspective enriches his professional analysis. He's also a regular speaker at industry conferences, sharing his views on the future of iGaming and digital finance. Follow his latest articles and insights on social media.


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