Burn the Floor
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
August 6, 2009
So, you thought you could dance. You can re-evaluate your talents once you see Burn the Floor, a highly energetic musical dance extravaganza that has been touring the globe for the past decade and is now steaming up audiences at the Longacre Theatre right here in New York City. The cast, consisting primarily of competitive ballroom dancers, including three-week guest appearances by Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy of Dancing with the Stars, raises the definition of dance to a new high. Part dance, part gymnastics, and a great deal of spectacle, this production is all entertainment.
Created and directed by Jason Gilkison, also an award-winning ballroom dance champion, Burn the Floor does just that. There is no plot. Ten couples use the aisles and the box seats as if the theatre were a three-ring circus, but the real down-and-dirty is right up on the stage. Gilkison's choreography shows off the gonzo talent and individual personality of each dancer, and he allows them their individuality even when they come together as an ensemble. He divides the two act production into four segments of dance: inspirations, things that swing, the Latin Quarter, and contemporary.
Burn the Floor starts off with a rowdy cha cha, but the step doesn't resemble anything you might have learned to get you through those high school rec centers. Gilkison distributes cha chas, rumbas, sambas, waltzes, and jive throughout the program, weighing in with a serious dose of swing, quickstep, and lindy in the latter half of the Act I. But, his choreography is so much more than dance steps. Janet Hine's grand costumes are devilishly in sync with his steps, sometimes seeming to prolong particularly torturous moves by the swoop and fluttering of layered chiffon. This is particularly notable during the Viennese waltz in"Nights in White Satin." In more frenzied numbers, hair flies with abandon, and tinges of hair dye show when the dancers flick their hair with their hands.
Ballroom dancing, as demonstrated in Burn the Floor, is heaped with romance and sensuality. This is underscored by the intense eye contact between partners. And then there's the small Broadway stage, which adds to the already intimate quality built into the dance numbers. That's not to say that there are any slow dances in this show. Some are slower, but the overall velocity ranks on a par with hyperactivity, thereby earning the show's title. Live music, conducted by Henry Soriano, accompanies. Situated above the back of the stage overlooking the dancers, the musicians keep the house rocking with percussion, saxophone, violin, and guitar. I could feel the reverberations in the fourth row. Ricky Rojas and Rebecca Tapia's fine vocals provide variety in texture and pacing.
If you don't know how to dance, this performance will relieve you of the obligation to learn since the bar is set so high. If you know how and love to dance, you may pick up a few moves for your next social event. Just make sure you have a reliable partner who can catch you on your way down.