By Leeor Adar
Burn the Floor is so hot you are mesmerised by the sweat and power of the dancers until the very last number.
Producer Harley Medcalf with ballroom veterans Peta Roby and Jason Gilkison, as director and choreographers respectively, have revitalised ballroom dance in a spectacular splash of contemporary style, colour and energy. I’ve had the privilege of viewing a number of dance companies, but this one really hit the ground in a way that brought audiences to their feet for multiple standing ovations. Decades into the Burn the Floor concept, this production continues to overwhelm and excite audiences worldwide.
You can expect high-calibre dancers from every corner of the globe bringing excellent technique in unique, sexy and high-energy scenarios.
We start in an eighteenth-century ballroom that is ferociously interrupted by one of the most high-energy Goth-glam numbers I could ever envisage. Costume designers Bret Hooper and Sharon Brown turned this PVC masterpiece into a significant shift in tone for the show. Nancy Xu wowed as she shifted her body fluidly in a structured skirt that could easily be mistaken for a hindrance.
Right from the get-go this production is breaking away from the chains of the past and using the very same chains to reconstruct and astonish its audience. It’s daring and racy, and as I watch with surprise my middle-aged mother grin with delight, I know we’re all in for a good night.
The musical numbers in Act One are an ode to the classics in music and feel. We visit the Latin Quarter and later take a trip to the world of swing. These swing numbers featuring iconic music such as ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’, and Elvis-era inspired dance moves, are where the male dancers really shine – and they clearly love every minute. Italy’s Gustavo Viglio captivated in the swing numbers, but the male dancers overall were really outstanding here.
Act Two rocketed us into the world of Carmen. The classic story of forbidden desire played out in a darkly erotic setting – a ballroom variation of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ played by the band made up of percussionist Alysa Portelli, and guitarists Andrew Marunowski and Jose Madrid led the dancers. The loud and excitable move to “Schools Out” saw the troupe don school uniform, and the acrobatic style and energy of our performers really shone. A standout, Jemma Armstrong, furiously played the cat-and-mouse games of the classroom. Overall, the dancers really delivered such volumes of energy I was breathless merely by watching. This breathlessness continued up until the final numbers, including crowd pleaser, ‘Ballroom Blitz’, at which point the audience was clapping and cheering.
Throughout Act Two were performances by pairings. Whilst some of these were fluid and breathtaking – namely the performance of ‘Angels’, where England’s Lauren Oakley’s physicality was nothing short of exquisite – I felt many of the performances as segments lacked flow.
The Acts were also interspersed with live musical performances by the Italian Mikee Introna and Australian Sharnielle Hartley. Introna brought excellent comic relief at the beginning and close of the show, and his voice overall was impressive. Hartley’s performance was enthusiastic, but the ballads performed without the dance detracted from the intensity and sophistication of the dancers’ work.
Burn the Floor is nonetheless a dynamic crowd-pleaser, and you can catch this relentlessly exciting production until Sunday 15 January at the State Theatre: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2017/dance/burn-the-floor