Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: "Burn the Floor" at the Pantages

Burn the Floor - Joan Marcus | Broadway CompanyBurn the Floor is primarily a showcase of different dances, featuring "international style" ballroom dancing.  This style comprises of ten dances including Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese, Tango, Charleston/Quickstep, Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Jive, and Paso Doble.  The show is home to an amazing number of dances and a cast of talented dancers, but given the variety of dances being showcased without a main narrative storyline, the show itself can also be seen as being a bit uneven in design with the second half shining the best. 

The opening of the show is called "Inspirations" where all the dances receive some level of showcasing.  The dancers and dances themselves were impressive and the amount of energy placed into the dancing was felt throughout the room.  In some moments of the show, the dancers took themselves to the floor and danced among the audience.  While all this enabled the audience to see the eclectic styles of ballroom dance, it was a bit daunting and head spinning.  The rich history of dancing can then be overwhelming.  As a patron who appreciates dance, but isn't very knowledgeable about the subject and styles, I was glad to be able to experience them all but found myself wishing I had more of an understanding of what was going on without having to or wanting to follow each detail in the program.

This opening is followed by dances in "Things that Swing" where more cohesion is brought to the show - primarily establishing the foundation for Quickstep, Swing, Jive, and Lindy.  Grouping the dances in similar styles and music, brings the show together.  Vocalists Peter Saul and Vonzell Solomon have more of a presence here as well.  Solomon has a powerhouse voice that mostly works for her persona as a songstress in a speakeasy style dance club and Saul's more subdued mellow tone is fun in his numbers here, playing on the sounds of the time in his own style.

It is the second half that pulls the show together, continuing to draw focus and cohesion to the dances and their individual stories in each piece.  The Latin Quarter is playful and sexy, even comical.  The group of dancers continue to work well, playing out sometimes a roomful of characters fully as they dance the Cha Cha, Rumba, Salsa, Samba, Tango, and Paso Doble. 

My favorite piece occurs in the fourth part "CODA - the Last Part" which opens with Saul singing "Burn for You" as two dancers elegantly showcase the Rumba.  In this song alone, there is story and Saul's voice creates complementary, soulful, and beautiful narrative for a love story that anyone can understand and believe.  The "Last Part" is also my favorite set because it features familiar songs "After All", "Proud Mary", and "Turn the Beat Around", mixing popular music with the dance steps, providing a familiar place for the audience to land, nod their heads, and sing to (especially if you're like me and you can't dance). 

Burn the Floor is at the Pantages until May 8th, 2011.

-Charity Tran

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus | Broadway Company

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