The new Awana Spa and Wellness at Resorts World in Las Vegas features a wellness experience unavailable anywhere else in the US: a grand-scale event sauna, with the capacity to seat an audience of up to 40 people who sit together and enjoy the theatrical art of sauna aufguss.
Inspired by the European tradition of communal bathing, where a sauna is not only a place for rest and rejuvenation, but also a social gathering point that builds community and bonding around the shared purpose of wellbeing.
Awana’s theatre-inspired, 360sq ft sauna was created by Design for Leisure (DFL) in collaboration with aufguss consultants Lasse Eriksen, vice president of Aufguss-WM and Rob Keijzer, a three-time world aufguss champion and professional trainer – in collaboration with spa consultant Cary Collier at Blu Spas.
The sauna, from Klafs, is made from Canadian Hemlock shaped to the contour of the curved walls – a key feature of the spa’s sacred geometric design.
Event saunas must be designed and built for purpose, and Awana’s has been specially created for sauna aufguss performances, with theatre-style lighting and a club-quality sound system, complete with sub-woofers hidden under the benches and capable of high volumes.
Space between the centrally-positioned heater and the first bench ensure sauna masters are able to move freely among guests, performing elaborate moves with their dancing towels that are choreographed to music, lighting and their own custom aromatherapy.
The sauna heater has also been manufactured to suit aufguss performances, as it acts as the focal point, being creatively clad in marble and illuminated for maximum visual impact. The heater needs to be powerful enough to quickly reheat the sauna rocks after each dramatic infusion of water and/or aromatic ice balls by the sauna master.
Training the masters
Sauna aufguss has evolved significantly in recent decades as a performance art and can be anything from an elaborate and theatrical show with mesmerising towel work and audiences clapping and singing, to quieter, almost out-of-body, meditative journeys and sound baths.
Traditionally, aufguss was less ritualistic and more utilitarian: sauna attendants (or masters) were on hand to help circulate heat, humidity and infusions, without much fanfare. But times change and now, a new breed of enthusiastic and dedicated sauna masters is constantly evolving the art, making it far more performative and interactive.
“It’s hard to think of a better place than the Las Vegas strip for the first event sauna in America,” says DFL CEO, Don Genders. “There’s an amazing pool of talented performers living locally, many of whom have already embraced wellness in their daily lives and appeared in large Las Vegas shows, such as Cirque du Soleil. Clearly, sauna masters with that kind of talent will be able to capture the attention of Vegas spa-goers.”
Genders, alongside Eriksen and Keijzer, spent a week at the property working with spa director Jennifer Lynn Raftery training a team of sauna masters in the art of aufguss.
Prior to the European team’s arrival, Awana’s new sauna masters had watched aufguss YouTube videos and were already performing their own, uniquely American sauna theatrics. Eriksen predicted this would be a precursor of things to come, saying: “I can already see this team of sauna masters taking the Aufguss World Masters by storm in the not-so-distant future.” Raftery has already offered Awana to host the first-ever North American heat of this event.
If the enthusiasm of guests at Awana is any indication, sauna aufguss is destined to make its way to many more spas in the US. All came out buzzing, saying they’d never experienced anything like it. Aufguss is an entertaining, emotional and spirit-lifting way to enjoy true wellness benefits.