Burn The Floor

Dates 10 January 2009 @ 8pm & 11 January 2009 @ 5pm Venue Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Director and Choreogapher Jason Gilkison Costume Design John Van Gastel Lighting Design Jason Fripp Musicians Henry Soriano & Cesar Giorgio Rojas - percussion, Jessica Lingotti & Kieron Kulik - vocals

Reviewer John Jane

When Burn the Floor first blew into Vancouver in the Spring of 2003, it was very much ahead of the curve. Now, perhaps due in part to the resurgent popularity encouraged by television shows such as “Dancing with the Stars,” ballroom dancing is more popular than at any time since Hollywood’s halcyon days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers.

Since the show’s producer Harley Medcalf first conceived the idea of a touring dance spectacular at Elton John’s fiftieth birthday bash in 1998, Burn the Floor has become an international phenomenon. The current format consists of about twenty dancers who represent Australia, Europe, United States and South America. Sequins and fake tans have been completely abandoned in favour of a high-energy display of dance pyrotechnics.

When former lead dancer and now choreographer and artistic director Jason Gilkison personally came on stage to introduce the show, he understated “Seeing them dancing the jive and the fox trot with today's attitude, looks far sexier than what it did 50 years ago."

The show literally ‘kicks-off’ with eight pairs of dancers descending on stage from all parts of the auditorium and assemble under a giant mirrorball cascading tiny beams of reflected light over the audience.

We then see featured vocalist Jessica Lingotti, who inherited the singing berth from Angela Teeks, appear at the top of the set in an elegant black dress with her own interpretation of the show’s opening number, You make me feel like dancing. Apart from possessing remarkable vocal range, this gorgeous Aussie also demonstrates a few dance steps of her own.

The performers moved seamlessly into the ballroom segment with couples using just about every square inch of the stage floor, at times with free flowing choreography in a magical foxtrot to the music of I could have danced all night; occasionally in elegant close tempo as with lead dancers Rebecca and Damon Sugden’s Pastorale waltz.

The steamy and sensual ‘Floorplay”’ sequence employs some truly dramatic lighting with the dancers displaying erotic intensity in their movements to a percussion laden rhythm. A lissome blonde dancer (Jessica Raffa) is blindfold and relies on ‘touching’ from her five bare torso-ed male partners to give her direction.

The first act closes out with a sequence called “Harlem Nights.” Guys sway, strut and swagger in dark suits and white shirts, while the girls swirl and sashay around the floor in brightly coloured knee-length dresses that reveal perfect muscle definition. Australian dancer Sharna Burgess is featured in a rousing, speak-easy routine that draws on a variation of the tango and jive. The rauchy dance vocabulary is well suited to Ms Burgess’ highly expressive, erotic style.

If the first act is exciting, then the second set is explosive with “The Latin Quarter” segment that features a selection of sensual Latin dances, introduced with Spanish guitar and percussion. Two matadors “duel” over a beautiful woman while female dancers in flamenco dresses dance a sizzling paso doble.

The exhilarating final sequences may have been worth the price of admission alone. The stylish Sugdens (who met and married while on tour during an earlier production) lead the full complement of dancers clad in shimmering silver costumes in an exuberant display of salsa, swing, jive and rock n’ roll. At the end, the audience paid tribute with a standing ovation.

Much of the music is recorded; however, the percussion is played live by Henry Soriano and Cesar Giorgio Rojas on two gargantuan drum kits at the back of the stage. Jessica Lingotti and vocal partner Kieron Kulik occasionally join the dancers on the floor giving the show a night club mood.

© 2009 John Jane