BURN THE FLOOR
Venue: Vancouver Centre for the Performing Arts Dates: 9 - 12 April 2003
Producer: Harley Medcalf Artist Director/Choreographer: Jason Gilkison
Reviewer: John Jane
I have always had a grudging admiration for Australians. Most of the Aussies I have known have been crazy in a non threatening way, and I have never met one yet, male or female, that couldn’t beat me in a game of tennis. However, it wasn’t until Baz Luhrman’s film Strictly Ballroom, released ten years ago, that I discovered these Aussies could also dance. This realization was confirmed by the dance production Burn the Floor at the Centre for Performing Arts.
Since Harley Medcalf first conceived of the idea of a touring dance spectacular at Elton John’s fiftieth birthday bash in 1998, Burn the Floor has become an international production that currently consists of thirty-two dancers who also represent Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
The show literally ‘kicks-off’ with all the dancers on stage behind a semi transparent blue scrim with the show’s logo emblazoned in white. The scrim is raised and choreographer Jason Gilkison and his lithe partner Peta Roby led his team of dancers in the funky “Would you Like to Dance with Me”, the show’s opening number. We then see featured vocalist Angela Teeks appear at the top of the set in an elegant black dress with her own interpretation of the Bette Midler song “Do you Want to Dance”, the first of five songs that she performed. Apart from possessing remarkable vocal range, this gal from Pittsburg also ably demonstrated a few dance steps of her own.
The performers moved seamlessly into the waltz segment with seven couples using just about every square inch of the hundred foot wide stage floor, at times in close tempo, but occasionally with free flowing choreography in the magical “Carousel Waltz”.
The ‘Urban Heat’ sequence employs some truly dramatic lighting with the dancers displaying intensity in their movements. Suddenly, we are taken back to the fabulous forties and the big band swing era, with the energetic ‘Jump and Jive’ swing arrangements such as “In the Mood”. The girls' poodle skirts and the guys' zoot suits made the nostalgia trip complete.
After what seemed a very lengthy intermission, the show resumed with a medley of Irving Berlin tunes, including “Stepping Out with My Baby” sung by Angela Teeks. The synchronized strict tempo ballroom style was reminiscent of Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire movies.
The penultimate set, ‘Passionata’ featured a selection of sensual Latin dances, introduced with Spanish guitar and percussion. Two matadors dueled over a beautiful woman while women in brightly coloured flamenco dresses danced a sizzling ‘paso doble’.
The exhilarating finale may have been worth the price of admission alone. The elegant Gilkison and Roby provided an exhibition of their championship dancing to Teeks’ silky version of the Doors classic “Light my Fire”. Eventually the full complement of dancers clad in an array of white costumes took to the floor in an exuberant display of salsa, swing, jive and rock n’ roll. The audience were captivated by this set, and at the end paid tribute with a standing ovation.
© 2003, John Jane