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BURN THE FLOOR– THE TEMPERATURE RISES. Directed and choreographed by Jason Gilkison. At Artscape Opera House until July 29. DEBBIE HATHWAY reviews
THE theatrical ballroom and Latin American dance sensation Burn the Floor is casting its spell on local audiences.
Opening night attracted a host of dance and theatre luminaries, as well as fans of the genre that’s found its way into the hearts and living rooms of television viewers worldwide, thanks to series such as So You Think You Can Dance, Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars.
The verdict? “Very fab,” said one, while another marvelled at the performers who “just give everything”, and at the audience’s capacity to provide two standing ovations at the end.
Since 1999, when Australia’s Jason Gilkison and Peta Roby began to apply their spectacular competitive Latin American career success to the stage, Burn the Floor has won kudos wherever it has been performed.
Spurred on by producer Harley Medcalfe, the show’s respective creative and technical directors, Gilkison and Roby, have taken their passion to the people.
The Burn the Floor cast comprises dancers from Australia, the UK, the US, Italy, Slovenia and SA; vocalists Jessica Lingotti (Uruguay) and Peter Saul (UK); as well as percussionists Giorgio Rojas (Philippines) and Pat Madden (Australia).
Interestingly, So You Think You Can Dance Australia was the springboard for winner Robbie Kmetoni to join the cast – the contract was part of his prize.
That gave Janette Manrara the chance to join Burn the Floor. A Season Five finalist for So You Think You Can Dance US and principal dancer for the television series Glee, Manrara auditioned for Burn the Floor during the company’s recent Broadway season, but she needed the right partner. Kmetoni is the perfect match.
The couple personify the dynamite-comes-in-small-packages cliché and bring acting and comic ability to boot.
“Fast and furious” pretty much sums up the overall feel of the show, with the time given to several beautiful rumbas and all-too-few romantic waltzes providing some melodic respite.
Faye Huddleston was one of the standout performers as she swept through some particularly classy ballroom numbers in Act 1, ably partnered by Aljaz Skorjanec. They also shared the stage in a well-executed quickstep with Gary Wright and Ash Leigh Hunter.
The Magalena samba, led by Megan Wragg with Jeremy Basile, was the first group number to accommodate more formation work than the short highlights featuring several couples’ prowess as per the introductory numbers.
Or was that simply to give a teasing taste of things to come? For me, the choreographic style that characterised this samba gave substance to the dance and more scope for the dancers to impress.
An unconventional twist in Kallyanne Brown’s performance of a rumba in Weather Storm/The Ballroom Boys gave extra dimension to that piece, while the tempo changes in Sway from cha-cha to swing contributed to a stunning performance by the cast.
After interval, it was reigning SA Latin American champion Keoikantse (Keo) Motsepe’s time in the spotlight. His performance with Brown in Si Tu Supieras gave me chills. It had all the emotion, contrast and technical excellence that every trainer, judge and dancer looks for or works to achieve in this genre. Motsepe has undeniable star quality, his look and presentation reminiscent of Durban-born Bryan Watson, a nine-time World Professional Latin American champion.
Audience members could barely contain themselves when he and his partner performed the paso doble to the familiar strains of España Cañi (aka Spanish Gypsy Dance). Their applause was well deserved.
The ever-popular Proud Mary, treated as a jive, proved to be a rousing closer with a cheeky cha-cha taking the encore in Turn the Beat Around.
Breathtaking drops and brilliant lifts punctuated the choreography while the relentless jive/Lindy/ swing/quickstep combinations in numbers such as I’m a Ding Dong Daddy made Roby’s point about fitness.
Don’t even think about auditioning for this show if you’re prone to injury. Just watching it will leave you breathless!
Standing ovations are the minimum reward for outstanding performances, and Burn the Floor is by no means the first show to get that right in the Mother City.
However, I’ve never seen people leave the theatre on such a high. Their energy was electric and their reaction not unexpected. Now for the maximum reward – box office support!
l Performances are Tuesday to Friday at 8pm, Saturday 2pm and 8pm and Sunday 2pm and 6pm. Tickets are from R125. To book, call Artscape Dial-a-Seat at 021 421 7695, or Computicket at 0861 915 8000, or see www.computicket.com
Buy two for the price of one for Talk Back tomorrow and on July 24, when the dancers stay on stage after the show for a Q&A session.