"This ain’t your grandma's ballroom," the posters say. And although BURN THE FLOOR might not be the kind of ballroom dancing my grandmother grew up seeing (or dancing, for that matter), I would hazard a guess that she would enjoy the show just as much as I did.
An exhilarating ballroom extravaganza, BURN THE FLOOR takes the art of ballroom dancing and packages it in a sexy show for audiences used to popular dances shows on television like STRICTLY COME DANCING and SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, although BURN THE FLOOR has been around for half a decade or so longer than either of those hit shows. That is not to say that BURN THE FLOOR abandons technique or showmanship, nor does it rely on the energy of competition to entertain. In fact, one of the most admirable things about the production is the sense of ensemble that characterises the evening’s entertainment.
BURN THE FLOOR alternates between high energy numbers featuring, amongst others, cha cha, jive and swing and quieter and, almost introspective sequences that showcase styles like the waltz and the rumba. The show is divided into four sections: "Inspiration", "Things That Swing", "The Latin Quarter" and "Coda – the Last Part".
Two of the highlights, for me, came early on in the evening, the back-to-back waltz numbers that round out "Inspirations". Some might view this as ironic in a show where the flashy numbers are engineered to be the crowd-pleasers, but I found these two pieces ('Everybody Hurts' and 'Pastorale') beautiful in the purest sense of the word. They complimented each other beautifully and I found myself close to tears, reminded how expressive and cathartic dance can be.
Other great moments included the witty 'Dirty Boogie', the multi-disciplinary 'After All' sequence and the company’s high voltage take on 'Proud Mary'. Jason Gilkison’s choreography is daring and spectacular throughout.
The dancers are all fantastic, but my particular favourites were Robbie Kmetoni, whose energy and personality read right to the back wall of the theatre; Jemma Armstrong, who flavours every step she takes with attitude and flair; Ash Leigh Hunter, who works with incredible precision and detail; and Stephen Vincent, who matches fantastic control with an appealing presence. Of special interest to South African audiences is Keoikantse Motsepe, our local Latin American Champion since 2004, who more than holds his own in the company of this internationally diverse cast.
The dancing is accompanied by a mix of recorded and live music, with two charismatic percussionists (Giorgio Rojas and Pat Madden) knitting it all together and a pair of singers, Jessica Lingotti and Peter Saul, who are seamlessly woven into the staging.
BURN THE FLOOR is dance for the sake of dance. It is a joyful experience that will entertain teenagers as much as it will their parents and grandparents. The show runs in Cape Town until 29 July before transferring to Johannesburg (1 – 19 August) and Durban (22 August – 2 September). Tickets are available from Computicket and The Joburg Theatre.