BOTTOM LINE: Just like Dancing With the Stars. With more dancing. And fewer C-Listers.
Let's say you're a major celebrity like oh, Elton John. And let's say it's your 50th birthday and you've recently become a big fan of contemporary ballroom dancing. Maybe you like the sparkly costumes. So your peeps decide to honor your special day by hiring amazing dancers to create a show for you to be performed at your soiree. Now let's say you're a power-player with money who happens to be a guest at Sir Elton's birthday party. And you see this show and you think "this is both awesome and potentially lucrative." You put your monacle back in your eye, take out your checkbook and adapt the show into a worldwide hit called Burn the Floor.
I'm not totally positive that's how it all went down, but suffice to say this show got its roots in 1997 in Sir Elton's honor. After a decade of developing and re-working, it has played in England and pretty much traveled the rest of the world on various tours. Burn the Floor has now set up shop at Broadway's Longacre Theatre for a limited engagement through January 2010.
Twenty smokin' dancers perform ballroom and latin dance routines, supported by two vocalists and a five piece band. Although the numbers don't follow a specific pattern or theme, the playbill does a nice job of introducing what ballroom dance actually is and clarifying what each type of dance is, technically speaking. Through the production you see the cha cha, the waltz, the rumba, the samba, the salsa, the tango, the paso doble, the quickstep, the lindy and swing. Each dancer is paired with another and the duos perform together through most of the show. Actually, each pair has danced together for quite a while and existed as a ballroom team before being cast in this production. The comfort and chemistry between partners is evident. And each team is from a different country so there is a certain variety between performances.
As the lights came up for intermission, my friend asked "so where's the buffet?" Although maybe a little harsh, I think the cruise ship analogy is pretty accurate for this show. Don't get me wrong, the performances in Burn the Floor are outstanding, but the depth of the production is somewhat lacking. Burn the Floor is about entertaining its audience, and maybe a little about educating the public about ballroom dance. But that's pretty much it. There isn't a story. There isn't a larger message. There isn't a visceral connection between stage and house on any emotional level. The dancers perform kick-ass choreography at 110% commitment and the audience has a good time watching it. (And my fellow audience members definitely enjoyed themselves). Not that there's anything wrong with theatre for the purpose of mindless entertainment, but just don't go in expecting something more. It's a fun, sexy dance show.
And that brings me to the adult portion of this review. Burn the Floor isn't scandalous, but it's definitely sexified. From little costumes to gyrating hips to smoldering bedroom eyes to sweat flying from one oiled up body to another, this show is full of flesh. One really can't complain about watching twenty toned bodies for two hours, but I feel I should at least mention it. And actually, it has a "mature" advisory. I personally think it's appropriate for anyone, but if you're sensitive about that sort of thing, better you should know in advance.
I had a good time at Burn the Floor. It's not groundbreaking theatre and it doesn't have much original production value, but it's a solid dance show with really phenomenal talent. Ballroom dance doesn't get much attention on a commercial level, so modern ballroom with an emphasis on creative nuances in choreography is a pretty exciting genre to experience, and one that is relatively hard to come by for an audience member. If you are looking for an easily accessible, upbeat Broadway experience, Burn the Floor is a great option. And if you are a dancer or are interested in dance, it's a good opportunity to see some exciting choreography.
(Burn the Floor plays at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street. Performances are Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday at 2pm and 8pm, Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. The show runs 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. Tickets are $59.59-$111.50. For tickets and more show info visit burnthefloor.com.)