‘Burn The Floor’
(Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI – March 28th, ’03)
Conceived five years ago from the acorn of a bewitching Ballroom and Latin dance performance at Elton John's 50th Birthday bash, ’Burn The Floor’ has since manifested into the most musically-groundbreaking, eclectic shows ever to hit the stage. Featuring championship dance couples from fifteen different countries, producer Harley Medcalf could never have considered the possibilities that his presumptuous dreamscape would ever evolve into something so elegant, so mesmerizing, so sophisticated, or so awe-inspiring in his wildest dreams.
Before the curtain had even risen, Opening Night here in Detroit had proven to be yet another sell-out event for the working partnership of Medcalf and Artistic Director, Choreographer and star, Jason Gilkison. The elegant Fox Theatre didn’t have an empty seat in the house and as the lights finally dimmed, and the back lights lit the silhouettes of two poised dancers through the giant curtain, it was now time to allow ourselves the guiltless pleasure of musical saturation.
In the next two hours, with a twenty-minute break midway, the show explored way beyond the confines of both the Ballroom and Latin dance styles that it had originally culled from. Included now in the musical festivities were such musical styling as the rumba, samba, cha cha, waltz, jive, jitterbug, swing, mambo, salsa, tango and even quickstep - juxtaposed with street and industrial dance. As the curtain lifted, the two ‘figures’ began their opening waltz routine, the sheer beauty and composed elegance a sight to behold. This was quickly followed by an all out – and extraordinarily colorful - dance rendition to the contemporary cool and sexy beats of the 1999 Touch & Go theme track, ’Would You Like To Dance With Me?’ [actually called ‘Would You …?’], before Angela Teek (’Oh Kay!,’ ‘Joseph/Dream Coat,’ ‘Beehive,’ and ’You’ll Never Know’) makes her first live vocal appearance of the night. Singing the ballad ’Do You Wanna Dance’, it leads directly into the ’Waltz Suite’ [the theme from ‘Carousel.’] This fantasy waltz then allows a gathering of masked male ‘live’ mannequins – the backdrop now lit up like a star-lit night – to take their ladies by the hand, swirling them gracefully.
To the sounds of heavy traffic and blaring car horns, industrial dance is the nu-order of the day as the dancers get stripped down - quite literally in some cases – from their elegant silver garb into a marauding band of street animals. This all-too-brief modernized cha-cha segment is quickly, and yet subtly bleed into a quite rousing, 1940s boogie and jive knees-up, that features the classic swing track, ’Jump Jive an' Wail’ [made popular by the Brian Setzer Orchestra]. Zoot suits for the guys, bobby socks and poodle skirts for the girls, the entire set was at its most colorful. And as three of the dancers ‘sang’ the Andrew Sisters’ infamous ’Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’, the Cotton Club era was made all the more real for all in attendance.
Having already introduced the vast array of dancers, Artistic Director/Choreographer, Jason Gilkison – who together with his dance partner, Peta Roby had successfully represented his native Australia in Ballroom dancing in the latter part of the last century - literally stalks the stage in this final segment before the interval. Like an expectant father, or an over-protective father to his children, Gilkison side-steps his way between dances, threading his way to each corner of the performing stage, his eyes alert, his body swaying, his forehead forever beaded. This is his show, encompassing his dance routines, featuring all his children. Nothing, but nothing will go wrong whilst he is around.
The second half to this dance extravaganza starts off in much the same manner as the first, with the same two dancers quietly waltzing, before a tribute to an Astaire-style era and 1930s film musicals is upon us. Performed to a medley of Irving Berlin instrumentals – and in particular, ’Puttin' on the Ritz’ - the men dressed in elegant deep silver tuxedos, the ladies in rich pink flowing ball gowns; the dancers simply flowed about the stage as if they were truly upon air. As Teek brings us her rendition of Fred Astaire’s classic ’Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ the dancers change over into Harlem-inspired black and white ensembles, and to the sounds of the ’Continental’, their every movements enabled them to glide about like human chess pieces; the game unimportant, the strategies vital.
It’s at this point in the show that Gilkison makes his presence known to one and all as, taking center stage for the first time, both he and partner Roby crank up the heat with a series of swelteringly vibrant, quick fire dance moves. Gilkison, a man whose shirts are either coming back from the dry cleaners two sizes too small, or whose treadmill has given up the ghost, clearly is not at his peak fitness, yet still manages to run the routines in a quite flawless manner.
A huge red sheet then covers the entire stage, quickly revealing three male dancers. Dressed in black and white ensembles, they are soon joined by more clones and females dressed; once again, in some of the most colorful inspirations created this side of Dame Edna’s closet! Bonita Bryg's costumes, together with the beautiful vocals of Angela Teek are interwoven within parts of this show as if they were born to be there. Performing a steamy adagio to Teek's rendition of the classic Doors song, ’Light My Fire’, Jason Gilkison and Peta Roby come to the fore once again. Clearly found laboring before the end of this mesmerizing piece, Gilkison – the sweat mapping out his spine through his ultra-tight shirt – is obviously the self-proclaimed leader of the pack here, but should he be? With other younger, fitter men attached to the project, one wonders if Gilkison's desire to remain in the spotlight is blinding him from the reality that, perhaps, it’s time for a more athletic protegee to take over the addictive glare of the center stage.
That conjecture aside though, the ‘Burn The Floor’ troupe get all dolled up for their sexy, saucy, hip gyrating finale. With everyone dressed in white, and with tassel’s abounding, the country-vibed segment musically reverts back to where it all began two hours prior with the dance track, ’Would You …?’. The ever-present happy, smiling faces abound aplenty as the tempo ups to a near break-neck speed, but this roller coaster ride ain’t over yet. Making her final appearance of the night; and as a large disco ball descends, Teek has her classy dress ‘ripped’ off to reveal a sequined surprise and cranks out the classic Donna Summer tune, ’Last Dance’. A huge disco dance-off ensues until a voice over introduces the dancers and their countries one last time and an end is finally brought to this quite explosive journey through dance.
Reviewed by Russell A. Trunk
To read our exclusive interview with Artistic Director, Choreographer and star, Jason Gilkison just click here and be whisked away !