note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
In a recent interview with critic Jules Becker, dancer Sasha Farber describes his performance in the national tour of two-act, two-hour “Burn the Floor” as ballroom dancing on steroids. Judging from the pulsating, acrobatic energy this group expends, he’s right.
This show, subtitled, “Ballroom. Reinvented,” originated and is directed and choreographed by Australian dancer Jason Gilkison and created by producer Harley Medcalf. Appearing at the Colonial Theatre last week, the show premiered in Bournemouth, England in 1999, has been performed in more than 30 countries and has won more than 100 championship dance titles.
The current company, featuring former alums Robbie Kmetoni, Anya Garnis Pasha Kovalev, Karen Hauer and Janette Manrara from TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” and sensational singers Vonzell Solomon (a.k.a. Baby V and “American Idol” second runner-up) and Peter Saul, along with dancers from 10 countries, boost ballroom dances with high energy, gravity-defying moves.
The 10 couples, or 20-member troupe, perform stunningly choreographed, Broadway versions of the Viennese waltz, samba, rumba, fox trot, lindy, jive, quickstep, swing, salsa, tango, and paso doble in rapid succession, one number fluidly segueing into the next. The dances are divided into four sections: Inspirations, a romp through dancing history; the lively, energetic Things that Swing; a sultry Latin Quarter set, and Coda- the Last Part, ending with a rousing jive version of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” (“Rollin’ On the River”) and the all-out rip-roaring, “Turn the Beat Around”.
At the outset, the first set kicks off with an element of sameness that’s uninspiring - typical nostalgic numbers - then revs into high gear and settling back into the Viennese waltz. Each section has its outstanding number, ranging from a gorgeous interpretive dance bathed in blue lights and featuring a magnificent female soloist surrounded by males, to a heart-stopping jazz set, a matador cape-twirling, romantic competition between two bullfighters, and the all-out finale.
The dancers, who range in age from 18 to 30 years old, are lithe, nimble, agile and athletic. Designer Rick Belzer’s stardust swirling light and blazing spotlights and the dancers change mood from sexy and sultry, jive to romantic, balletic to adagio.
Janet Hines’ costumes glitter and sparkle, catching the light as the dancers are hurled into the air or twirl with the beat. They dance up and down a centrally located staircase, stride and leap across the the stage,and, in a few numbers, spill into the aisles, dancing near the audience, their energy electrifying patrons nearby.
Although the music is canned, percussionists Joseph Malone and Henry Soriano beat throbbing rhythms on two separate platforms above the stage.
Not everyone will be thrilled with “Burn the Floor,” especially ballroom diehards expecting traditional ballroom standards. But the group boasts this isn’t your grandparents’ twirl around the floor. It’s a Broadway version that defies anyone to try these moves at home.