Monday, September 27, 2010

Burn The Floor

from the Sacramento Bee (CA):

'Burn the Floor,' in Sacramento through Oct. 10, turns ballroom dance on its head
Published Monday, Sep. 27, 2010

It's been more than a decade since producer Harley Medcalf created "Burn the Floor," a Broadway dance production that makes its next stop Wednesday night in Sacramento. He remembers ballroom dance as a dusty art form the public rarely talked about back then.

"In 1999, when you mentioned the word 'ballroom,' people would look at you like you were crazy," said Medcalf.

Then professional dancers started stepping into the limelight, starring in reality TV shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars." Almost overnight, the buzz surrounding the dance genre had been reignited.

"It's the new rock 'n' roll," he said.

Premiering in Bournemouth, England, "Burn the Floor" has sold millions of tickets in more than 30 countries and 160 cities. The two-hour production takes audiences on a journey through the evolution of ballroom, from the Viennese waltz and fox trot to the cha-cha and samba. Two vocalists and two percussionists also perform throughout the show.

Directed by ballroom dance champion Jason Gilkison, the dance numbers are split into two acts and four segments. It starts with a comparison between traditional ballroom and what the company does, moves into the swing clubs and the Latin Quarter, and ends with current ballroom expression.

Medcalf said the show tries to step away from the predictability of a ballroom competition, making the dances more about each dancer's personality and unique form of expression.

"What we're looking for are the rebels of the ballroom dance floor," he said. "They're doing things outside the expected norms of a ballroom competition."

Seven of this production's dance "rebels" are from the hit show "So You Think You Can Dance." (The show forces dancers to perform outside of their genre.)

"It's a dance company, but no one is forced to be like the person next to you,' said Anya Garnis, a finalist on Season 3 of "So You Think You Can Dance." Garnis joined the Broadway production last year with dance partner Pasha Kovalev.

Also included in this year's touring production is Robbie Kmetoni, a contemporary dancer and winner of this year's "So You Think You Can Dance Australia."

The piece Kmetoni performs in the opening act of "History Repeating" with salsa dancer Janette Manrara is a fusion of cha-cha and contemporary dance.

"Some of the lifts and throws they do in that number are death-defying," Medcalf said.

"Burn for You," a rumba performed by Garnis and Kovalev, also puts a contemporary spin on the traditional ballroom dance style.

Garnis said there is no overall story line to the production; each number acts as a short story that's left up to the audience to interpret.

She said both the reality television show and "Burn the Floor" have opened up her mind about ballroom dance.

"It's ballroom reinvented," said Garnis. "We try to push boundaries."

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