Review: Burn The Floor

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Forget the Superstars of Dance currently on television. The REAL superstars of dance just waltzed into town with Burn The Floor completing two shows at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on January 10th and 11th.

Like a lot of shows that make their way to Vancouver, they are in-and-out so quickly that it is virtually impossible to spread the word about the good ones, especially when the show doesn’t live up to all the hype or the PR hyperbole (recent disasters that come to mind are Mama Mia! and Movin’ Out). And this is a real shame since this one deserves all the attention that it is getting worldwide.

Be warned though, this is not your grandparent’s ballroom dancing! Long gone is the stuffiness, over-the-top costumes, the lacquered hair and plastic fake smiles. Instead, award-winning Australian choreographer Jason Gilkison serves up an energetic and stripped down (and we do mean stripped down) two hour show that will literally have you dancing in the aisles. In fact, in his introduction to the show, Gilkison declares that his grandfather may well have been embarrassed by some of this “new” ballroom.

Dancers from Burn The Floor ignited the stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in January.
Dancers from Burn The Floor ignited the stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in January.

Accompanying the 18 dancers on stage two live percussionists (Cesar Giorgio Rojas and Henry Soriano) and two vocalists (Kieron Kulik and Jessica Lingotti) propel Burn The Floor into a modern homage to its traditional pedigree that goes well beyond anything that PBS served up with Juliet Prowse and the Championship Ballroom Dance Competition.

But don’t let this modern makeover fool you into thinking that these dancers are the furthest thing from ballroom. Indeed, while the show takes great pains to move beyond its roots, the basics of the ballroom dance are always present but the only “judges” here are those of us in the audience that would have given these dancers that all-too-elusive perfect ten.

For those that may have read some of my previous live show reviews, you know I’m not a big fan of breaking down that “fourth wall” between stage and audience. But for Burn The Floor, the breaking down of this wall worked well, engaging the audience and even encouraging some small audience participation. The reason it worked here is that there really is no narrative that becomes suspended as in a scripted stage play and besides, who doesn’t want to an opportunity to be up-close-and-personal with some of these gorgeous dancers!

Indeed, the show begins in the audience even before the curtain rises. It actually took us about 30 seconds to realize what we were seeing in the audience was indeed part of the show and was a fun start to the high octane performances we were about to witness on stage.

Beyond the incredible skill of the dancers, the show makes the most of its set pieces (always a problem for touring companies)complete with obligatory mirror ball, smoke and its backdrop of twinkling stars. The two percussionists, who work almost as hard as the dancers themselves, are set high on risers towards the middle of the stage alternatively playing by themselves, with the singers and seamlessly with the taped music.

While the music is on tape, we were suitably impressed with the integration between the percussionists, the live vocals and the music. If we hadn’t known the music for the show was on tape we would have wondered where the band was given the absence of an orchestra pit.

Speaking of music, special mention must go to vocalist Lingotti’s arrangement of the Moody Blues classic “Nights In White Satin” and of course, it was a double pleasure to see Kulik not only sing but take to the stage with his tap shoes!

Given the huge interest in ballroom dancing thanks to shows like “Dancing With The Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” we’re not surprised that a show like Burn The Floor is such an international hit. But while this popularity might get them a larger audience, the ultimate proof is in the ability of any show to entertain, and Burn The Floor definitely entertains.

The show is now on its way for a one-night gig in Penticton on January 14th, then to Spokane for another show on January 17th. From there they will be undertaking an extended run at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre starting January 30th.

If you find yourself in the City by the Bay through mid March Burn The Floor is a great alternative to the Castro for one night and the best part is you’ll still get to see all kinds of half-naked men!

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