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Broadway Blogs - Review Roundup: Burn the Floor and More...

Below are BroadwayWorld.com's blogs from Monday, August 3, 2009. Catch up below on anything that you might have missed from BroadwayWorld.com's bloggers!

Review Roundup: Burn the Floor
by Robert Diamond - August 03, 2009

Burn the Floor, the electrifying Latin and Ballroom dance spectacular that has thrilled audiences in over 30 countries, will make its Broadway debut in a limited 12-week engagement in one of Broadway's most intimate venues, bringing audience members thisclose to the action and passion of the dancers. 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, Burn the Floor takes audiences on a journey through the passionate drama of dance. The elegance of the Viennese Waltz, the exuberance of Jive, the intensity of the Paso Doble - audiences will experience them all, as well as the Tango, Samba, Mambo, Quickstep, and Swing. It's Ballroom dance with a sexy 21st century edge.

Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press: "Still, the cast of "Burn the Floor" seems to be having a good time, even to the point of carrying the action into the aisles of the Longacre. But then ballroom dancing may be more fun to perform than to watch. Lessons anyone?"

Lisa Jo Sagolla, Backstage: "There's an electrifying finale to "Proud Mary" that will surely inspire you to cash in the coupon for a free ballroom dance lesson that a local dance studio is distributing outside the theater."

David Rooney, Variety: "Let's call it "So You Think You Can Step It Up and Dance Your Ass Off With the Stars of America's Best Dance Crew." While ballroom blitz "Burn the Floor" has been touring internationally for 10 years, its arrival on Broadway clearly aims to cash in on the resurgent popularity of dance on television reality shows. But if you're going to invade the turf of Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins and Michael Bennett, you need to bring something beyond adrenaline and aggressive sizzle. Something like grace, style or wit. While there's only about 15 ounces of collective body fat onstage, there's also about 15 ounces of imagination."'

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: "The good news about "Burn the Floor," a ballroom dancing extravaganza that opened Sunday at the Longacre Theater, is that it is every bit as flashy and tacky as you would expect. Do I need to add that this is also the bad news?"

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: ""Burn the Floor" consists of a breathless, plotless succession of ballroom routines. That's it, and it's either a lot or not very much, depending on your love for this type of dancing."

Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: ""Burn the Floor" is an experience that alternates between exhilarating and contrived. As a bonus, just thinking of what those dancers put themselves through should give you a great night's sleep."

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: "As much as I love "SYTYCD" (and I do, right down to the hot tamale train), the need to often explain what routines are about gets tiresome. So do all the mist effects in "Burn the Floor," but the dance speaks eloquently for itself."

Jennifer Armstrong, Entertainment Weekly: "Two-plus hours of dancing flies by with storytelling and pacing worthy of any Broadway musical. "

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld.com: "Routines tend to stay on the same level of aggressive athleticism serving more as skill demonstrations than expressions of artistry."


Burn The Floor: So You Think You Can Sit Through This
by Michael Dale - August 03, 2009

The 2009-10 Broadway season began with a shirtless man and a bikini-clad woman posed dramatically under a spinning disco ball.  Soon after, similarly underdressed performers danced their way up and down the aisles of the Longacre Theatre in displays that suggested over-caffeination more than artistry.

Well, as Dorothy Fields put it, "It's not where you start; it's where you finish."

Burn The Floor, a two-act endeavor that claims to reinvent ballroom dancing (apparently by sapping it of anything resembling romance, cleverness or sincere emotion) originated in 1997 as a 50th birthday present for Elton John.  (Note to friends and admirers:  I'll be perfectly happy with a nice bottle of brandy when I hit the half-century mark this December.)  After touring worldwide, the show has now settled on Broadway for a 12-week run, promoted as an entertainment that will especially appeal to fans of television's Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.

The idea seems pretty swell on paper.  Director/choreographer Jason Gilkison has assembled a company of 18 title-winning dancers (Damon Sugden & Rebecca Sugden, Trent Whidden & Gordana Grandosek, Damian Whitewood & Petra Murgatroyd, Kevin Clifton & Giselle Peacock, Henry Byalikov & Nuria Santalucia, Sasha Farber & Melanie Hooper, Patrick Helm & Sharna Burgess, Jeremy Garner & Sarah Hives, Robin Windsor & Sarah Soriano), two featured stars (Karina Smirnoff & Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who are with the show through August 16), a pair of vocalists (Ricky Rojas & Rebecca Tapia) and four musicians (Conductor Henry Soriano and Roger Squitero on percussion, David Mann on sax and Earl Maneein on violin and guitar; there is also recorded music used) and has packaged them in a production whose format mirrors the rules of competitive ballroom dancing, known as dancesport.  Using "international style," the company performs five Latin American dances (Cha Cha, Samba, Paso Doble, Rumba and Jive) and five Standards (Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Tango and Quickstep) presented in four sets ("Inspirations," "Things That Swing," "The Latin Quarter" and "Contemporary") that utilize songs as diverse as "Let's Face the Music and Dance, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and "Turn The Beat Around."  It's a chance to see pairs who are accustomed to dancing competitively working together as an ensemble, with various spotlight moments.

Unfortunately this world class talent is engulfed in an evening of tackiness trying to pass itself off as sexy.  The frequently smoke-filled floor, Rick Belzer's intrusive lighting and costume designer Janet Hine's (working from John Van Gastel's originals) monotonously skin-revealing creations are too obvious to suggest anything sensual, but it's Gilkison's choreography, relentless in its determination to heat up the night with splits, tight clinches, gyrations and hip-swaying that quickly turns the evening into a dull affair.  His staging of group numbers -- and the show is dominated by group numbers -- lacks texture.  Routines tend to stay on the same level of aggressive athleticism serving more as skill demonstrations than expressions of artistry.

There are exceptions.  Smirnoff and Chmerkovskiy earn their star billing by displaying some legitimate adult emotions in their pairing set to Rojas' vocal of "Burn For You."  Even better, in my book, was a heartbreaking little fantasy (and if the Playbill listed who danced what routines I could tell you who was in it) where a rejected woman imagines herself romantically dancing with the stranger who just passed her by for another partner.

But such moments are cancelled out by the inclusion of questionable choices such as the Viennese Waltz to "Nights In White Satin" that seems to exist simply for the costume opportunity and an "all technique, no emotion" bit where a stageful of ladies in white fringe minis shake their best Tina Turner shimmies to "Proud Mary."

Yes, yes, I know... there are perhaps some true aficionados of ballroom dance reading this and wondering what business I have criticizing the efforts of artists from a culture I know nothing about.  And I'll readily admit that whatever skill I may have in critiquing dance lies in how it pertains to musical theatre.  But Burn The Floor is playing in a Broadway house and the producers have chosen to invite Broadway theatre critics to review it (no, those invitations are not transferable) so I'm obligated to write about it in the context I know best; that of being a theatre entertainment.  I welcome any comments from those more familiar with dancesport to be posted below.  In the meantime I'll just wait for autumn, when a bounty of new plays and musicals will be coming in.  That's when I expect the Broadway season to really heat up.

Top photo by Kevin Berne; Bottom photo by Mark Kitaoka


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 8/2 & Algonquin Round Table Quote of the Week
by Michael Dale - August 03, 2009

"Everything that isn't writing is fun."

-- Dorothy Parker

 

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 8/2/2009 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: BURN THE FLOOR (92.5%), AVENUE Q (6.3%), MARY POPPINS (2.1%), MAMMA MIA! (1.8%), ROCK OF AGES (0.7%), MARY STUART (0.4%), JERSEY BOYS (0.1%),

Down for the week was: CHICAGO (-2.5%), 9 TO 5 (-2.2%), THE 39 STEPS (-2.1%), SHREK THE MUSICAL (-1.4%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-1.2%), NEXT TO NORMAL (-0.9%), SOUTH PACIFIC (-0.8%), WEST SIDE STORY (-0.8%), THE LION KING (-0.5%), HAIR (-0.4%), IN THE HEIGHTS (-0.1%), THE LITTLE MERMAID (-0.1%),


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