Sunday, August 2, 2009

Burn The Floor


Dir. Chor. Jason Gilkison. Longacre Theatre. (CLOSED)

In the reviews for the dance extravaganza Burn the Floor, many critics have an "it's great for the tourists, but we're above it" attitude. To be fair, they give praise where praise is due, especially to Dancing with the Stars couple Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy (in the show through August 16), who most critics agree are the stand-outs among the technically proficient dancers. Some critics find the costumes (Janet Hine), choreography, and disco themed sets (Ray Klausen) tasteful, while others find them tacky. The bottom line in the reviews is that if you enjoy the dance-craze television shows, you'll love Burn the Floor.
Edit: Quite a few more glowing reviews have come in (including an A+ from John Simon!), so the B- is once again a reflection of pretty evenly divided reviews.

Bloomberg News A+
(John Simon) What is on offer at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre should change the mind of the most hard-bitten terpsichorophobe who thinks the boards are just for treading. This show is, as its director-choreographer, Australia’s Jason Gilkison, rightly calls it, dance theater. It is comic and dramatic, sensual and lyrical, acrobatic and romantic -- in short, utterly theatrical... There are extraordinarily difficult steps, complex intertwinings, unusual lifts, a woman (or sometimes a man) whirled around the floor or tossed about, clinging to various parts of a partner, one tumbling or sailing over the other (elegantly, not clownishly), separations and rejoinings, gravity-defying parallel leaps... All of these dancers are at the very least interesting to look at. My favorite among the women is the stunning blonde Peta Murgatroyd -- inspiring, minimally rephrased, Yeats’s words: “all beautiful, one a gazelle.” Most impressive among the men is Sasha Farber, who, though slighter than the rest, can do something approximating Nijinsky’s legendary, inimitable entrechat dix. Guest artists through August 16 are Maksim Chmerskovskiy and Karina Smirnoff from “Dancing with the Stars,” blending in seamlessly with the rest.

Talk Entertainment A+
(Oscar E Moore) It pulsates. It seduces. It has some of the most beautiful, talented, sexy dancers ever seen on Broadway dancing in various combinations to the rhythms of an onstage band with vocals supplied by Rebecca Tapia and Ricky Rojas and brilliant choreography by Jason Gilkison. It is rock solid, pure entertainment. You should stop reading now and buy your tickets immediately. It is sure to be sold out for its limited engagement through October 18th. Especially if you would like to see Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy – from the hit television series Dancing With the Stars. Appearing on stage through August 16th, they are just one of the highlights of this dazzling production. It is not only their presence that ignites the stage with some really outstanding ballroom dancing – it is the entire ensemble cast of eighteen incredibly gifted and well toned dancers that bring the Cha Cha, the Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba, Samba, Jive, Tango, Quick Step, Swing and Paso Doble to breathtaking heights. Whether dancing up and down the aisles of the theatre or gyrating on stage (seemingly at a non-stop pace) you will be totally enthralled.

CurtainUp A
(Simon Saltzman) Even as it comes framed within a splashy, but never kitschy, theatricality, the dances are admirably conceived for their tempestuous and dramatic impact. They are also performed by dancers who appear seriously and sensually in touch with the disciplines of their respective dances. This can be attributed to Australian director-choreographer Jason Gilkison, who seems determined not to let anything outside of playful passion get in the way of the dancers' swiveling hips, entwined legs and undulating torsos. We easily make allowances for the obligatory mirrored ball, billowing smoke effects and the backdrop of twinkling stars that glitter in accord with the dictates of set designer Ray Klausen and lighting designer Rick Belzer. Janet Hine's colorful, glittery, and shimmering costumes (based on the original designs by John Van Gastel) are not only gorgeous and tasteful but also dedicated to the philosophy that less is more... Since primitive times people seem to have always enjoyed rhythmic movement always insinuating a meaning of its own. Unless you are missing a chromosome or two, you should find Burn the Floor an invigorating and exhilarating entertainment. It is certainly the sexiest show on Broadway.

Time Out New York A
(David Cote) Director-choreographer Jason Gilkison finds a nice balance of kitsch and class (more so than in the TV precursor, Dancing with the Stars). While beef- and cheesecake abound, there are sensitive Rogers-Astaire routines for the adorable married couple Damon and Rebecca Sugden. Blond duo Peta Murgatroyd and Damian Whitewood dispense with niceties in their agitated rumba numbers, full of impatient pawing and crotchcentric domination poses. The program gets off to an amiable, if faintly ridiculous start, with Gilkison giving us the ballroom equivalent of The Lion’s King’s “Circle of Life.” But instead of giraffes and wildebeests promenading to the stage, we have scantily clad performers striking hyperbolic poses in the aisles, their chiseled features twisted in a rictus of preorgasmic intensity.

(Roma Torre) "Burn The Floor" is a two-hour adrenaline rush featuring some of the best and best-looking ballroom dancers in the world. And this is clearly not your parents' ballroom two-step. Gilkinson, a world champion Latin and ballroom dancer in his own right, conceived of "Burn The Floor" as a sexy vehicle for 18 fellow performers to strut their stuff. Accompanied by two very talented singers and a four-piece band, mostly percussion, it's a pulse-pounding showcase for some awesome dancing, set to an eclectic playlist of standards both old and modern. The cheesy factor is a lot less than you might expect, although the fog machine gets almost as much of a workout as the dancers. For three weeks only, the show boasts the guest appearance of "Dancing With The Stars" favorites Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff, who do add a starry presence to the mix. But in all honesty, their talents are no more nor less than the rest of the extraordinarily gifted company.

Entertainment Weekly A-
(Jennifer Armstrong) Seeing pros tackle cha chas, waltzes, sambas, and rumbas in the flesh — and there's a lot of (tasteful) flesh — elevates the art beyond what's possible on television, burdened by those clunky ''stars.'' DWTS' Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff, appearing as guest stars for the show's first three weeks, are mostly beside the point, though the real-life couple does pull off one hot, stripped-down rumba. A polished production makes all the difference, with classy costumes that prove glitter and kitsch aren't ballroom-dancing requirements.

The Daily News A-
(Joe Dziemianowicz) Choreographer and director Jason Gilkison has packed the two-hour show with moves that are athletic, sensual and rocket-fueled (except the waltz, which, though elegant, is less than a thrill). He has polished his cast of award-winning international dance duos to a high sheen. That includes guest stars Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who appear through Aug. 16. That these popular "Dancing With the Stars" pros fit in seamlessly with the well-oiled and charismatic cast is one thing. That Maks manages to stand out amid so many fierce dancers speaks to his megawatt magnetism. More than his partner and fiancĂ©e, he communicates that dance is made up of not just feet and hips — it's in the face. While Karina is buried under heaps of hair, Maks looks like he's having a blast and is always connected. For the same reason, I was drawn to Jeremy Garner and Sarah Hives, whose relationship with each other and the audience stood out.

Backstage A-
(Lisa Jo Sagolla) Of the revue's four segments—"Inspirations," "Things That Swing," "The Latin Quarter," and "Contemporary"—the second, a sequence of swing dances, is by far the most theatrically successful. What comes before, a series of hard-hitting presentations of the different dance styles, is performed with such aggressive athleticism and competitive energy that it feels like a sporting event. When the dancers display individual feats of technical virtuosity, the audience responds like ballpark fans to a home run. Though the performers are stunning to look at and exhibit uniformly superb technique, the dancing in the first segment remains only superficially engaging, because Gilkison's choreography lacks variety and ingenuity. He stays confined for the most part to the social-dance vocabulary and generates dramatic interest by either upping its athletic quotient or having the performers imbue their dancing with inflated emotional intensity. In "Things That Swing," however, Gilkison adds a heavy dose of Bob Fosse to various swing dance styles and produces five fabulous dances that feel more like Broadway production numbers than dance-competition routines. A jiving couple is often framed by a black-clad ensemble in derbies slinking around in sensual Fosse-esque moves and postures that echo or elongate the swing shapes, filling the stage with more fully developed movement statements.

Lighting & Sound America B-
(David Barbour) Jason Gilkison's choreography is designed to expose the maximum number of scissored legs and flying limbs as couples writhe and wrap themselves around each other in increasingly tortuous fashion. But whether billed as lindys, jives, sambas, or rumbas, the routines are almost totally indistinguishable. Each is an athletic obstacle race, designed to whip bodies around the stage at supersonic speed. The prevailing mood is gymnastic rather than romantic, mechanical rather than erotic. If you're looking for narrative or any kind of dramatic build, look elsewhere; indeed, several numbers simply come to dead halts... The dancers, all veterans of the ballroom dance world, are brilliant technicians, but who are they? Each is gifted with two expressions -- sultry or toothy -- and watching them execute their limited repertory of moves becomes a bit wearing. Even Smirnoff and Chmerkovsky fail to stand out in the crowd... It's brief, it's fast-moving, and it knows its audience -- in short, it's an almost perfect offering for Broadway's summer silly season. The rest of us should chill out: Autumn is coming. There are better days, and plays, ahead.

Associated Press B-
(Michael Kuchwara) Chmerkovskiy and Smirnoff have definite personalities. He possesses a swagger and a smile that borders on a boyish sneer. She generates a wild abandon. Maybe it's all that untamed red hair. And their personalities come through when they dance together in a show that could use more character. Despite the overt sexiness, there's something bland about the evening, a generic eroticism that needs a dose of quirkiness during a surprisingly monotonous tour through the history of ballroom dancing. It's not that the 20 dancers, drawn from all over the world, aren't technically proficient. They can swirl, swerve, kick, slide and glide with ease. But Australian director and choreographer Jason Gilkison has arranged the show, which has toured the world over the last 10 years, in a deadening manner... Unlike theater greats such as Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett or Jerome Robbins, Gilkison brings no distinct style to his dance creations. Efficiency is all.

New York Post B-
(Elisabeth Vincentelli) "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... Sometimes the performers swirl around in pairs; sometimes they're grouped up in ensemble numbers -- and everybody appears in the high-energy finale, set to "Proud Mary" and "Turn the Beat Around." The cumulative effect is like gorging on the sugariest cake ever. Scratch that: There's no cake here, only colorful and sprinkly frosting. And the cherry on top is the presence of Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff, two likable pros from "Dancing With the Stars."... he Vegas/cruiseship aesthetic is surprisingly tasteful, even when costume designer Janet Hine follows the "Chicago" lead -- if you've got it, flaunt it, preferably in black underwear. Singers Rebecca Tapia and Ricky Rojas move about in the middle of the troupe, backed by a mix of prerecorded elements and live instruments (special props to spectacular drummer Henry Soriano).

The Bergen Record C
(Robert Feldberg) The best routines highlight the dancers' stamina, building to what seems a peak of frenzy, and then going beyond that, again and again. That happens with "Magalena," an infectious, beat-driven samba that becomes intoxicatingly sensuous. It's repeated with a euphoric lindy-jive-swing number that ends the first act, and in the show's finale, "Proud Mary," a fevered homage to Tina Turner. If you're a fan of more elegant and precise ballroom dancing, you won't find much here, although a delightful quickstep to "It Don't Mean a Thing" had that kind of suave charm. Ultimately, "Burn the Floor," whose steps, styled by creator-director-choreographer Jason Gilkison, aren't always as compelling as the dancers, is a series of individual numbers. It doesn't have the dramatic unity of a dance show like "Tango Argentino," which was built on Argentina's tango culture and traditions.

Talkin' Broadway C-
(Matthew Murray) Though technically astonishing, its two hours of contextless dance numbers aren’t primed for character- or drama-hungry theatregoers. A song like “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” carries with it the memory of the legendarily charismatic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Follow the Fleet, something that simply can’t be challenged here. “Nights in White Satin” feels like an excuse for specific costuming material than a powerful basis for a story, and it lacks the soulful ache of the familiar Moody Blues rendition. Duke Ellington and Irving Mills’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing (with a Swing)” on some level require the big-band brassiness they can’t get from Henry Soriano’s four-piece band, and the expansive spirit that short bits in the middle of longer sections simply don’t encourage. The better numbers are those that create their own meaning, often with the help of crack vocalists Ricky Rojas and Rebecca Tapia, who provide additional groove and slick style at several points throughout. The jive-driven tale of a five-girl philanderer seems just right against the vocal backdrop of Felix Riebel’s “Fishies,” for example; and the two-part finale of “Proud Mary” (filled with rapidly shaking, layered white dresses and torn jeans) and “Turn the Beat Around” provides an energetic send-off from the full-company. Feelings are extraneous in moments like these, but it’s hard to miss what you don’t need. Strangely enough, the few bits that should seem most foreign to this show’s aesthetic are the ones that connect the most. On a handful of isolated occasions, the Technicolor bumping, strutting, and thrusting stops long enough to cede the stage to traditional ballroom - the traditional kind that emphasizes and elevates elegance and class. None of the other modern interlopers onstage can compete with the sight of tall men in white tie and tailcoats spinning elaborately decorated ladies in full evening attire, lost in the only reverie that should matter: each other.

The New York Times C-
(Charles Isherwood) While it has been spruced up for its arrival in New York with new sets and costumes, the production still looks more ripe for Bournemouth than for Broadway. The set consists of little more than a bandstand with steps, some flimsy-looking backdrops and a disco ball. (Maybe in Bournemouth the disco ball was smaller?) The costumes, clingy sequin-spattered and fringe-trimmed dresses for the women and tight black slacks (and the occasional shirt) for the men, sometimes look cheap. Two percussionists and two other musicians perform live, but much of the music is recorded. A little tacky too is the brevity of Mr. Chmerkovskiy and Ms. Smirnoff’s tenure with the show. They will appear only through Aug. 16 before they cha-cha off to other pursuits. That is a shame, because they provide “Burn the Floor” with a jolt of real charisma and heightened style in their duets... Which is not to suggest that all the dancers, who together have collected more than 100 titles on the competition circuit, are anything less than skilled technicians. Hailing from various countries — among them New Zealand, Britain, Italy, Slovenia and Malaysia — they perform with the precision and polish this athletic dancing all but demands. Tight footwork, tight abs and tight smiles are all on resplendent display, although much of the ersatz eroticism requires not smiles but look-ma-I’m-smoldering glares at the audience.

TheaterMania C-
(Brian Scott Lipton) Oddly, there's little question that choreographer and director Jason Gilkison is aiming for non-stop steaminess in this two-hour revue, as routine after routine is filled with shakes, shimmies, leg lifts, full splits, and other blatantly erotic movements. But despite his attempts, true sensuality rarely emerges from these endlessly proficient -- if rarely innovative -- variations on classic ballroom dances, including cha-chas, rumbas, waltzes, and paso dobles. (Definitions and histories of these dances are provided in the program, although a little onstage education might have been welcome.)... Ultimately, though, what makes the show so shockingly tepid is that the hard-working troupe of champion dancers, culled from numerous countries, rarely emit much personality or even find significant ways to connect to each other or the audience. They're all quite attractive, technically adept, remarkably swift -- and willing to bare much of their bodies (even when clad in Janet Hine's provocative costumes); but one wants to witness more individuality from each ot fhem. Indeed, only the consistently fiery Giselle Peacock and the Amazonian Peta Murgatroyd manage to stand out from the crowd -- and make you feel the burn.

Variety D-
(David Rooney) 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... Directed and choreographed by former "Burn" ensemble member Jason Gilkison, the show whirls through the 10 standard disciplines of ballroom, initially in a dance-through-the-ages sequence that segues from "Let's Face the Music and Dance" into Shirley Bassey/Propellerheads number "History Repeating." But those 10 basics -- waltz, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, tango, quickstep, cha cha, samba, paso doble, rumba and jive -- all tend to blur into one when performed with the same hyper-accelerated flamenco intensity. There's so much random cross-pollination among styles, and so many garish theatricalized flourishes, that technique and subtlety disappear along with modulation. Among the more unfortunate routines is a number featuring a single blindfolded female dancer being tossed around by a group of shirtless guys, a cheesy sex fantasy that plays like camp without irony. Many of the visual correlations are beyond elementary: The paso doble as a bullfight?

Newsday F+
(Linda Winer) This is a glorified floor show at Broadway prices. The program, first created for Elton John's 50th birthday celebration in 1997, has a tacky disco ball that descends periodically from the ceiling, two sprawling drum sets (with live drummers) on a platform above a virtually bare stage, two singers with hand mics, one saxophone player, one violinist and what sounds like a whole lot of synthesizer... The problem is that, for all Gilkison's attempts to superimpose coherence and variety, he has not been able to develop an internal logic or interesting dance ideas from this limited and repetitious vocabulary. The steps and rhythms may be complex, but the emotions are generalized. Love is combat. Love is mean sex. I need you, go away. Don't leave. He hangs on her. She hangs on him. Kitsch is romance. Attitude will prevail. When the dance cannot turn a full evening into more than a series of strenuous effects, Gilkison switches the lights from green to purple. When all else fails, we get the fog machine.

Bloomberg News A+ 14; Talk Entertainment A+ 14; CurtainUp A 13; TONY A 13; NY1 A 13; EW A- 12; The Daily News A- 12; Backstage A- 12; Lighting & Sound America B- 9; AP B- 9; New York Post B- 9; The Bergen Record C 7; Talkin' Broadway C- 6; The New York Times C- 6; TheaterMania C- 6; Variety D- 3; Newsday F+ 2; TOTAL: 160/17 = 9.41 (B-)


Anonymous said...

Were all these failed journo hacks actually at the show "Burn the Floor".Some must have been by the comments but how long.Back to the bar guys and tell the editor I was working boss.I have never in 50 years of shows and theatre around the world come out after a show with such a feeling of euphoria!
Go back to watching your old hacks treading boards they should have left years ago.Make way for the next generation and that goes to editors still employing these no nothings.

Anonymous said...

You know, perhaps your comments about those "failed journo hacks" would be a bit more convincing if you were yourself capable of stringing words together into basic sentences. And besides, why are you complaining? Some reviewers loved the show.

Anonymous said...

Well anonymous, how can someone write a review without seeing the show. I agree with some of the good and some of the bad reviews and I agree the show is not Broadway quality, I was there.