BURN THE FLOOR (National Tour)
Dallas Summer Musicals
Directed and Choreographed by Jason Gilkison
Scenic Design by Ray Klausen
Lighting Design by Rick Belzer
Sound Design by Peter J. Fitzgerald
Costume Design by Janet Hine (Based on the original design
by John Van Gastel)
Percussion: Giorgio Rojas and Henry Soriano
Vocalists: Vonzell Solomon and Peter Saul
Ash Leigh Hunter
Reviewed Performance 4/5/2011
Reviewed by John Garcia, Senior Chief Critic/Editor/Founder for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
It is no secret that I have a slight-well ok-actually I have a serious addiction to two television dance competition shows. ABC?s ballroom hit DANCING WITH THE STARS and FOX?s SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE.
In THE COLUMN I have for every season written a complete wrap up critique of the previous evening?s competition.
From the choreography, to the costumes, even to the props & lighting. Since season one, these two shows have had my eyes transfixed to my plasma TV as I absorb these two juggernaut hits week after week.
Now I am not at all trained nor have a background whatsoever in the knowledge of dance terms, its history, conception, execution, etc. I just know what I like and what I see is aesthetically pleasing to me. I have such high esteem and respect to dedicated, well trained dancers and their ability to create such emotion with their bodies. It is a fascinating art form that can move you to tears or race your heart with high pumping adrenaline.
Something tells me that the powers to be at Dallas Summer Musicals were keenly aware of my hardcore addiction to these dance shows as my seats at Tuesday night?s BURN THE FLOOR were on the very front row (now playing through April 17th at the Music Hall at Fair park).
BURN THE FLOOR is a potpourri dance extravaganza of ballroom and Latin that opened at the Longacre Theater on Broadway in August 2009 for a limited engagement, closing in January 2010 after 185 performances.
The official press packet states the concept best: ?From Harlem?s hot nights at The Savoy, where dances such as the Lindy, Foxtrot and Charleston were born, to the Latin Quarter where the Cha-Cha, Rumba, and Salsa steamed up the stage. The elegance of the Viennese Waltz, the exuberance of the Jive, the intensity of the Paso Doble-as well as the Tango, Samba, Mambo, Quickstep, and Swing.? (Above excerpt taken from DSM?s official press release).
All of these themes of dance are packed into this electrifying, mind blowing production that leaves you literally exhausted from watching this phenomenal cast create unbelievable, eye popping magic on stage.
Ray Klausen?s scenic design is simple, yet very effective. He has white chiffon cascading in soft layers both upstage and for the stage legs. In one section the material is formed into a triangle accordion cinched at the middle. For another number he has curtains made of long rows of sparkling, shimmering beads. A set of black stairs sit center stage, separating the two percussionists.
The lighting design by Rick Belzer is a kaleidoscope of rich colors that resemble a 100 box of crayola crayons. The first number alone has concentrated, piercing light that aims right on cue at certain dancers that are blocked all over the stage (and in the audience!).
All the numbers have creative moments of light that set the mood in perfect sync with the choreography and music. I especially liked that the spot lights were placed behind the proscenium. You could see the spotlight operators maneuvering them, which bathed vivid spears of light onto the dancers. The bottom stair is trimmed with luminous lighting that pulsates to the beat of the music. Many numbers are lit in so many colors, resulting in saturating the dancers in hues of romance, lust, and wild frenzied energy.
Janet Hine?s costumes were based on the work of the original designer?s pieces, John Van Gastel. Each dancer goes through a parade of costumes changes. The men stick to slick black pants with an endless change of shirts. Other numbers had them in black tail tuxedos or in vests with festive ties.
The women in the company though wear the best costumes. One number has the ladies dressed in bright Jolly Rancher hued chiffon dresses with ruffles galore. For the Latin quartet, Hines has the ladies in soft, sexy flamingo gowns, while the men wore the iconic bull fighter?s jackets, right down to the tassel in the back. The costume highlights though were in Act Two. For one number the women are dressed in tight dresses adorned with tiny beads that have an overlay of black chiffon, each one a different color. These costumes made the women?s bodies gleam so hot that they could literally melt the gels off the lights hanging above them. The other costume delight was the finale. Again the girls got the best confection of fabrics to wear here. They wore (again in a rainbow of eye popping colors) these heavily beaded, sequined costumes that looked like they were painted onto their well toned bodies.
Jason Gilkison?s direction and choreography is flawless from the first beat to the last pose. He seamlessly intertwines various forms & themes of dance without a break or awkward pause. He has a heavenly couple (the male dancer in tails, his partner in a gown of shimmering grey satin with a billowing collar of ostrich plumes) glide through the Viennese Waltz only to have a group of dancers come through the wings doing the Lindy, Jive, and various Latin moves. They weave between each other with finesse, never breaking the energy. His choreography is visually remarkable, magical, and so dazzling that you could hear the audience gasp and constantly applaud throughout the evening.
His attention to detail is marvelous to observe. Every hand, finger, and leg movement has purpose-and the cast is always-and I mean always-in unison. Gilkison even has choreography with tables, the stairs, even the black scrim. One number is done with chairs that will leave your jaw hit the floor due to the thrilling choreography he created here.
Gilkison?s idea of having two live percussion players on stage was a stroke of genius. Giorgio Rojas and Henry Soriano hit those instruments with such gusto, power, and heart pounding excitement that your booty never stops moving in its seat. It took great resistance on my part from not rushing on stage and dance along because of their incredible percussion playing.
I particularly found exhilarating the percussion Latin version of the classic Jazz/Swing number ?Sing, Sing, Sing?. Wait till you see what they do with that number!
There are two live vocalists on stage as well. Peter Saul sings with a bold, strong tenor voice that can segue from pop to Latin with no break in his voice. He also sings in several languages! His finest vocal moment came in a dramatic solo in which he sat at the lip of the stage.
As this review stated my hardcore dependence on TV dance competition shows, I also am addicted to AMERICAN IDOL. We are talking serious addiction when it comes to me and AI. Well- AI fans guess what? The female vocalist happens to be Vonzell Solomon! She was second runner up in season four. Her voice has even gotten stronger since the show. She belts those long, sustaining notes with full, rich tones that ride on her vibrato in perfect harmony. She has several vocal solos that brings down the walls of the music hall.
Her rendition of ?Proud Mary? would even make the great Tina Turner stand up and applaud her. Solomon is also dressed in some exquisite gowns throughout the evening. From a black tulle gown sprinkled with rhinestones, to a gown of silver sequins that blinds the audience. Talk about the complete package here.
There are 18 dancers in this company. They come from England, the Philippines, Italy, USA, Venezuela, Germany, Australia, and Russia. Many have won national and international Ballroom and Latin dance competitions from all over the world. All combined they have over a 100 Championship Dance Titles. Many of these cast members come directly from the original Broadway and West End companies. Thus they have toured 30 countries, did both Broadway and the West End, and now here they are in Dallas.
I make that statement because of this: Being in the front row I was able to see up close everything. These dancers displayed such stupendous energy, joy, and pure pleasure in their dancing that made you appreciate them even more. They never had that burned out look that some touring casts have when they have been on the road for so long. Not once did they mark it or look like they were going through the motions. Instead they had this infectious, endless energy with these expressions on their faces that they sincerely enjoyed performing the art of dance.
Here?s another example of how focused these dancers were. When they did their exits, they actually continue the movement into the wings until they basically hit the wall. Never once did they go into the wings and dropped character. Ever. They stayed in the moment way pass the stage legs. When?s the last time you saw that in a show?
They go through 90 liters of water backstage, 194 pairs of shoes, 367 costume and costume accessories for every performance. They rehearse and warm up two hours before curtain.
This entire cast is astounding in their performances. They do tricks, leaps, flips, and jumps that left me aghast. How can the human body contort or have the ability to do that?
It takes great trust when it comes to partners in dance. This is quite true here. The men throw the girls high into the air, flip them like they were made of Papier-m?ch?, or twist them into these human pretzels around their bodies. It is so hard to single out performances, because they all did such sensational work here. But there were some that were my personal favorites.
Some men dancers can appear on stage a tad too elegant or soft. Not here. This entire cast of men is comprised of masculine, rugged dancers with an aura of manly demeanor.
For you SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE fans there are several finalists in this cast. Such as Anya Garnis, Pasha Kovalev, Karen Hauer, and Janette Manrara.
Anya and Pasha were the ballroom couple that competed in season one and stole the hearts of America. They are the featured solo stars of the cast, and their numbers easily show why. Their chemistry is sizzling and their dancing is transcendent. They dance first rate duets set to ballroom, Rumba, Cha-cha, and Latin. One of their most romantic duets was a contemporary piece of a couple struggling with their relationship. Set to a soft ballad, these two show with their faces and dancing the subtext of a tattered relationship beautifully.
Karen Hauer by far is the hottest femme fatale in the company. A gorgeous Venezuelan with more legs than a bucket of chicken. She has this aura of erotic sensuality that hypnotizes the audience. Her dancing alone leaves men weak to their knees each time she graced the stage. In one hot Latin number she is the lone female for all the men to partner with her. This created these complex, fantastic choreographed movements. And to top it off Hauer is blindfolded! She has several solos throughout the evening, and in each one she stood out with that killer body, beautiful face, and exquisite dancing. I could not take my eyes off of her.
Damien Samuel and Aljaz Skorjanec portray two Matadors in a Paso Doble that is worth the price of the ticket alone. These two tall, handsome dancers give out the perfect amount of Latin machismo and astonishing stage presence along with their magnetic dancing. These two men throughout the evening bewitched the audience with their potent dancing.
Giselle Peacock is a smaller dancer, but a body that when she crosses the street she leaves in her path an endless sea of crashed cars because the drivers were glued to her beauty. The girl has sass and boundless energy that was wonderful to observe.
Gary Wright was another standout. His stage presence was dynamic while his connection to his various partners was perfection. His dance technique had this extra layer of finesse and polish that commanded the stage.
Sarah Soriano relished in one number as the girl in the club that all the boys wanted. Her body and facial expressions resembled a luxurious panther. She slithered, gave some delicious come hither looks to the men with her eyes and body-only to reject them. Soriano?s body fit with the subtext and the choreography of that number like a glove.
Baby faced Robbie Kmetoni did look like the youngest dancer in the company. A smaller framed boy, but he held his own against the taller men. His death defying flips and dance technique was impeccable.
Finally there was Kevin Clifton and Sasha Farber. These two dancers had such overwhelming energy that they could light up New York City, Los Angeles, and all of Europe if there was a blackout. These two unparalleled dancers possessed splendid dance technique that left me awe-struck. Their faces gleamed with pure love, affection, respect, and glorious enthusiasm for doing what they love to do most-to dance.
The entire cast is comprised of some of the most beautiful men and women you?ve ever seen on stage at once. As the evening worn on, their bodies glistened and gleamed from the sweat, but never once did the dancing or energy dim. Their bodies (both the girls and boys) are sculpted like those statues of the Roman gods and goddesses that are in Greece & Rome. Each of them have major se* appeal, sparkling stage presence, and their dancing is out of this world. But a fair warning, you?re going to need a cold shower after the show ends. That?s how hot this cast is!
This is not a dance recital or a hokey dance show by any means. It is a superlative evening of intoxicating, astonishing dancing done by a troupe of out of this world dancers. If you are not a fan of dance, this production will change your mind?BIG time!
In two words BURN THE FLOOR is: sensually spectacular!
BURN THE FLOOR (National Tour)
Dallas Summer Musicals at the Music Hall at Fair Park
Through April 17, 2011
Tickets are on sale at the Box office, 542 Preston Royal Shopping Center, or any Ticketmaster outlet. Tickets, priced from $15-$75,
are also available by calling 1-800-982-ARTS, or online at www.ticketmaster.com
For groups of 15 or more call 214-426-GROUP.