The faster the dancing the greater the audience excitement at seeing some of the world’s best dancers gyrate and strut their stuff in Burn the Floor, as passionate as they can be about their craft. They are hot, hot, hot! – finely tuned torsos so in sync that their spectacular routines are made to look effortless. In total an international cast of 20 including dancers, musicians and vocalists take to the stage.
This new show has taken two years to bring to fruition, complete with a Spanish-style set and breathtaking costumes – from elegant period attire to racy and showy. For those interested in numbers, the two hour performance (including a short interval) requires upwards of 350 costumes and accessories, and nearly 100 pairs of shoes. Just imagine how busy those behind the scenes personnel are ensuring all goes smoothly with the quick changes.
There remains a rebellious spirit and youthful exuberance about this production, which was the creative direction behind Burn the Floor when it first appeared. The expert choreography is by Jason Gilkison and Peta Roby, who formed a professional dance partnership in 1980 and were undefeated Australian Latin champions from 1981 to 1997 … and became world champions.
Years before Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance turned ballroom dancing into compelling television, Burn the Floor was captivating audiences globally. It has been seen in more than 300 cities and continues to wow audiences on select cruise liners. The debut show in London in 1999, in which Gilkison and Roby performed, was credited with reinventing the ballroom style.
The idea for Burn the Floor emerged from Elton John’s 50th birthday party in 1997, which included a short performance from a group of ballroom dancers. That inspired Australian-born producer Harley Medcalf, who had been the singer’s Australian promoter for 20 years. Today, four ensembles perform around the world at any one time.
Featured dances in Fire in the Ballroom include the Spanish Flamenco and Paso Doble, Salsa, Tango and Cha Cha, along with classics such as the Waltz, the Foxtrot and Swing. Often it is the full cast hard at work, but then there are more intimate moments involving only two dancers. The singers frequently work in tandem with the dancers, but they also perform alone.
The diverse music includes numbers from Johann Straus, Santana, Shakira, Led Zeppelin, Christina Aguilera, Janis Joplin and Tito Puente. The first act covered Blue Danube, Sunshine of Your Love, Bossa Nova Baby, Volare, Samba Pa Ti, Too Darn Hot, It Don’t Mean A Thing and Tequila. After interval Stairway to Heaven was a real crowd pleaser, as was Piece of My Heart and With a Little Help From My Friends. My favourite piece was the grand finale – a simply superb, high octane number accompanying The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz, written and produced by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman.
I couldn’t get enough of it – a brilliant high note upon which to end a super show. Burn the Floor: Fire in the Ballroom is on at The Palms at Crown in Melbourne until 19th March as part of an Australian tour.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television