Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
With the popularity of dance-themed reality competitions currently, it's not surprising that a ballroom dancing show has been turned into a "theatrical event" in the form of Burn the Floor. Taking a theme or art form and developing it into a Broadway show seems like an easy (and cheaper) way of creating a new product. In recent years, Cincinnati has seen its share of such non-traditional events as part of their Broadway Series, such as Stomp (percussion), Blast (drum & bugle corps), Cirque Dreams (circus) and Riverdance (Celtic arts). As displayed in its national tour currently playing at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati, Burn the Floor showcases some excellent dancers and dances, but a person's degree of enjoyment of the show may depend on their knowledge of and interest in ballroom dancing.
Directed and choreographed by Jason Gilkison, Burn the Floor presents numerous dances, almost all of them performed in couples in the "international style" of ballroom dancing. Consisting of the cha cha, waltz, foxtrot, swing, quickstep, rumba, samba, jive, Viennese waltz, tango, paso doble, and Lindy, the show's program effectively mixes the various styles. The elegance of the waltzes (performed in flowing gowns and tuxes) is contrasted by the fiery passion of the Latin dances (usually featuring shirtless men and the ladies showing lots of leg and bare midriffs). The non-stop movement, visual treats, and varied presentation provide for an audience friendly atmosphere. Still, even at only a two-hour running time, the show may feel slightly padded and repetitive to those theatergoers who aren't ballroom aficionados (and with this being part of a Broadway series, that's likely to be the case with most).
The minimal scenic design by Ray Klausen is stark and sleek and leaves plenty of room for the dancers. The stage lighting by Rick Belzer is effective and employs a colorful palate. The attractive, sometimes glamorous, and mostly sexy costumes are by Janet Hine, based on the original design by John Van Gastel.
In addition to the dances, the real stars are the talented cast of Burn the Floor. Coming from countries around the world, the nineteen dancers display grace, athleticism, non-stop energy, and technical expertise across the entire spectrum of ballroom disciplines. Theatergoers may recognize some of the cast from "So You Think You Can Dance," including Ashleigh and Ryan Di Lello, and Janette Manrara, but all of the dancers are praiseworthy and impressive individually. The dances are performed to a combination of pre-recorded music, live percussion skillfully supplied by Joseph Malone and Henry Soriano, and smooth live vocals by Vonzell Solomon (from "American Idol") and Peter Saul.
Burn the Floor is a high-octane ballroom dance extravaganza featuring extremely talented dancers. While the show may come across as too-much-of-a-good-thing for some audience members, most are likely to be entertained and impressed.
Burn The Floor continues at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati, Ohio through January 30, 2011. For more information and tickets, call (513) 241-7469. For more information on the tour, visit www.burnthefloor.com.