“Burn the Floor” heats up Chicago during the SNOWPOCALYPSE

As they say in the performing arts world: “The Show Must Go On” The Show Must Go On - Queen: Greatest Hits I & II

There were predictions hitting towards two feet of snow in parts of Chicagoland but a call to Broadway in Chicago confirmed what most businesses, stores and restaurants would not do in downtown Chicago… the show was open and was going to go on as scheduled. Granted, considering how quickly the temperature rose during the first number of the show “Ballroom Beat” (YouTube clip) this came as little surprise to those in attendance. When the first beats of the African rhythm filled the auditorium, you knew it was going to be hot. Dancers appeared throughout the auditorium, in the balcony, in the aisles… dancing and shaking to the rhythms before jumping onto the stage for an amazing opening number.

Looking at all the dancers, for fans of SYTYCD, there were plenty of familiar faces:
– SYTYCD US Season 3: Anya Garnis & Pasha Kovalev
– SYTYCD US Season 5: Janette Manrara
– SYTYCD US Season 6: Ashleigh & Ryan DiLello, Karen Hauer
– SYTYCD Aus Season 2: Daniel Samuel & Ash Leigh Hunter

Also part of the cast from SYTYCD Australia, Jason Gilkinson’s assistant: Sharna Burgess. Plus a nice surprise is SYTYCD US Season 7 hopeful: Giselle Peacock (seriously this girl better be on the show in the upcoming season or I’m going to go on strike! :D)

The Chicago stop marks the return of Anya and Pasha to the cast after a few months’ hiatus. As director/choreographer Jason Gilkison mentioned… the opening night in Chicago was the first time the cast saw Anya and Pasha after a few months and it was amazing to see them just come in and dance as if no time has passed. That’s professionalism at it’s finest.

Granted, there is no such thing as an all dance show, let alone a dance only cast. So the vocalists of Burn the Floor were West End alumni Peter Saul and American Idol Season 4 finalist Vonzell Solomon.

Although the headliners were advertised as Anya & Pasha and the DiLellos, there were so many memorable dances from the rest of the cast, that to this viewer this was more of an ensemble cast than anything else. Take for example the exquisite Waltz to “After All” After All (Love Theme from towards the end of the show where there was a transparent curtain across the stage and one couple danced in front of it… while later in the number a second couple joined them to dance behind it in a kind of mirroring of the first couple.

Another major highlight is Karen Hauer, she simply smolders through the Rumba towards the beginning of the show, while being serenaded by most of the male cast. As she winds, twists, and dances from one partner to the next, her stoic, reserved expression seems to bore into her partner as well as the audience… but when they blindfold her a whole new persona seems to just take over… the passion, the ferocity, the fire and energy come out in full force… as if by being vulnerable she exudes the confidence and the passion of the Rumba. It was beyond breathtaking to watch.

Giselle Peacock (though not on the Playbill) was an extemely welcome addition to the cast. It is no wonder that she was part of the original Broadway production of Burn the Floor. That girl has so much fire, energy and passion in her movement (particularly the Latin dances) that you can’t help but be drawn to her.

Janette also had her own fair share of great moments in dance pieces… but she really shined in the group routines if you pay attention to her. Her personality was fun, flirty, and fantastic, it was great to see her salsa background being put to good use.

Whenever there is a major group routine, you could see the interactions and camaderie as displayed by some of the group. Like when Janette is sitting in the corner and another couple dances close to her and her partner she reaches out to the male dancer as if grab him only for her partner to rein her in. Or Karen as she and another female dancer get into a bit of a row over a guy, it was a barely contained cat fight waiting to happen. There’s a younger male dancer that just keeps on trying to catch the attention of anyone and everyone and the poor guy keeps getting ignored until he starts dancing and suddenly women flock to him. It was entertaining to see these remnants of characters playing throughout the show in the group numbers.

The show itself was broken up into four sets (two sets per Act). The first set: Inspiration… contained routines that were inspired from all walks of life, from the African rhythms heard in Ballroom Beat, to the often heard “Magalena” Magalena - 100% Brasil as interpreted by Anya and Pasha via their Samba. From the fun and fast Jive and ChaCha done to “Fishies” Fishies - So Many Nights to the slow, smooth, beautiful Waltz to “Pastorale” Pastorale - Songs from a Secret Garden.

And if the first set didn’t get your heart pumping then the second set full of Swing, Jive, Lindy Hop and Quickstep routines was sure to get you dancing in your seat (if not in the aisles). Opening with “Sway” Sway - Michael Bublé as interpreted by Vonzell, the cast smoldered on stage as the transition from song to song, routine to routine was beyond seamless.

The second act didn’t disappoint as it kept the temperature up with a series of routines with a bit of a Latin flare, from the ChaCha to the Rumba… simmering into the Salsa, Samba, Tango and finally the Paso Doble you can’t help but take note of the Matador battle and that the men chosen for this routine were two of the most masculine of the cast (is that even possible?). There was so much testosterone oozing out of the pores of these two gentlemen that it would not be of any surprise if there were women in the audience swooning at the sight.

The last act seemingly mirrored the first act where it started with something slow and melting: Anya and Pasha dancing the Rumba to John Farnham’s Burn for You, and finishing with a collage of dances ending with an incredibly upbeat dance to “Turn the Beat Around” Turn the Beat Around - Greatest Hits Vol. II.

As the cast was introduced towards the end of the show… you start to realize just how international ballroom dancing really is, each pair coming up were introduced by first name and where they were from. There was Anya and Pasha calling Los Angeles home, there was a pair from the UK, another from Australia, Russia, (Karen and her partner were introduced as being from Venezuela), Liverpool, etc. As the cast bowed and danced during the curtain close… Anya and Karen dancing the robot dance could be seen… if you didn’t catch it… it was refreshing to see dancers just let loose and enjoy themselves.

And there you have it. Is the show worth the price of the ticket? Yes. Even if Anya & Pasha or the DiLellos aren’t dancing in your city there are more than enough other alumni present that are featured to saturate your love/need of good ballroom dancing. Now, coming from someone that has the original DVD of Burn the Floor, I have to say this re-imaging through the eyes of Jason Gilkison was well worth it, seeing it for a second time would also be well worth it if only to see the rest of the cast as a whole rather than focusing on those dancers from SYTYCD… in fact… that is a thought. Hmm… 🙂

So what are you waiting for? Go and get your tickets to see Burn the Floor before you realize that you just missed it. For those that don’t know when it is coming to a city near you, here is a listing below:
Chicago, IL, USA
Feb 1 – 13, 2011 | Broadway in Chicago
Guest Stars: Ashleigh & Ryan Di Lello, Anya & Pasha

Norfolk, VA, USA
Feb 15 – Feb 20, 2011 | Chrysler Hall
Guest Stars: Ashleigh & Ryan Di Lello

Detroit, MI, USA
Feb 22 – Mar 6, 2011 | Fisher Theatre
Guest Stars: Anya & Pasha

Boston, MA, USA
March 8 – March 13, 2011 | Colonial Theatre
Guest Stars: Anya & Pasha

Fort Myers, FL, USA
March 15 – 20, 2011 | Barbara B.Mann Performing Arts Hall
Guest Stars: Anya & Pasha

Atlanta, GA, USA
March 22 – March 27, 2011 | Atlanta Fox Theatre
Guest Stars: Anya & Pasha

Fayetteville, NC, USA
March 29, 2011 | Crown Theatre
Guest Stars: Anya & Pasha

Huntsville, AL, USA
April 1 – April 3, 2011 | Mark C. Smith Concert Hall
Guest Stars: Anya & Pasha

Dallas, TX, USA
April 5 – April 17, 2011 | Music Hall at Fair Park
Guest Stars: Anya & Pasha

Tucson, AZ, USA
April 19 – 24, 2011 | Tucson Music Hall
Guest Stars: Anya & Pasha

Los Angeles, CA, USA
Apr 26 – May 8, 2011 | Pantages Theatre

Modesto, CA, USA
May 17 & 18, 2011 | Gallo Center for the Arts

Riverside, CA, USA
May 20 – May 22, 2011 | Fox Performing Arts Center

Costa Mesa, CA, USA
May 31 – June 12, 2011 | Segerstrom Center for the Arts