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Thursday, 06 August 2009 20:04

Broadway Review: "Burn the Floor" Does

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Burn the Floor

Burn the Floor
Photo: Mark Kitaoka

Alright, I’ll be the first to admit, I was ready to be snarky as hell about Burn the Floor, the new extravaganza now playing at the Longacre Theatre.  I’ve never been a fan of, or even felt a compunction to watch the big dance shows, “So You Think You Can Dance,”  “Dancing with the Stars” and the like.  But I dare you to see this show and within the first 3 minutes tell me you don’t see something you like,  and I haven’t even gotten to the dancing yet.  This is one of the sexiest casts that Broadway has ever seen.  From the first moment to the curtain call, these people are not only burning the floor they’re smokin’. 

Burn the Floor has a cast of 10 couples performing the 10 dances that comprise the “international style” of ballroom dancing.  They are the Cha-Cha, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Swing, Lindy, Jive, Samba, Rumba, Tango, Quickstep, and Paso Doble.  This cast performs each of these with astounding precision and emotion.  The 18 award-winning international dancers hail from around the globe - Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Australia, Sweden, The Philippines and the U.S. - and include Australian Ballroom and World Latin American champions.

Burn the Floor

Burn the Floor
Photo: Mark Kitaoka

The show was birthed at a fiftieth birthday celebration for Sir Elton John in 1997.  Subsequently it opened in London, traveled to over 30 other cities and eventually landed on Broadway.  It’s created, directed and choreographed by Australian Jason Gilkison, former World Champion Latin and Ballroom dancer, and guest choreographer on the fourth season of “So You Think You Can Dance.”  Mr. Gilkison has beautifully crafted a thrilling evening of dance theatre. 

The dancers were accompanied by a pre-recorded synthesized track as well as two on-stage drummers , a wood-wind player, a violin/guitar player and a male and female singer.  Singers Ricky Rojas and Rebecca Tapia brought real passion to their vocals.  Mr. Gilkison integrated the singers beautifully into the show by weaving them in and out of numbers.  His rendition of Si tu Supieras was gorgeous.

I’m disappointed in the producers for not ponying up for more live musicians.  I was seated in front of a tower of speakers and the synthesized strings and brass began to irritate me.  While I’m beating up on the producers, I’m disappointed in their decision (and obviously the decision of Mr. Gilkison) to not include a same-sex couple dancing together.  I would hope that my disappointment need no explanation. 

The show featured Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy as featured dancers.  Both are title holding ballroom dancers who have both appeared on the dance hit, “Dancing with the Stars.”  The couple is talented without a doubt.  But the rest of the cast is certainly no less than the couple in that department. 

Burn the Floor

Burn the Floor
Photo: Mark Kitaoka

I need to take a moment to articulate my disappointed in the Tony Awards for eliminating the Special Theatrical Event category from next season’s awards.  This category was the Tony Awards appreciation for the fact that not all theatre comes in vanilla and chocolate.  The theatrical community is a diverse family and now they’ve just been told by the theatre’s highest honour that unless they fit neatly into a play or a musical category, their chances are pretty much nil. 

Side Note: to the “gentleman” who arrived a few minutes before curtain, was seated in the centre orchestra, wearing a ratty Central YMCA London t-shirt and jean cut-offs, WTF?  First snacks at our seats and now attire like this?  I still feel funny if I wear jeans to the theatre.  Come on people, class it up.


Disagree with me? Scroll down to write your own review.

Review Roundup:

Michael Kuchwara for The Associated Press – “It's not that the 20 dancers, drawn from all over the world, aren't technically proficient. They can swirl, swerve, kick, slide and glide with ease. But Australian director and choreographer Jason Gilkison has arranged the show, which has toured the world over the last 10 years, in a deadening manner.”

Robert Feldberg for The Bergen Record – “It calls itself a ballroom-dancing show, but its relationship to common social dancing is roughly the same as that of a motorcycle to a scooter. Think of it as an extended version of "Dancing With the Stars," done in triple time, by really, really good dancers.”

Charles Isherwood for The New York Times – “The good news about “Burn the Floor,” a ballroom dancing extravaganza that opened Sunday at the Longacre Theater, is that it is every bit as flashy and tacky as you would expect.  Do I need to add that this is also the bad news?”

Michael Dale  for – “The 2009-10 Broadway season began with a shirtless man and a bikini-clad woman posed dramatically under a spinning disco ball.  Soon after, similarly underdressed performers danced their way up and down the aisles of the Longacre Theatre in displays that suggested over-caffeination more than artistry.”

Last modified on Saturday, 08 August 2009 23:09
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