Wednesday, February 4, 2009

" Burn the Floor:: ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

"Toto, this is not Union Square anymore," we were thinking, as we sat in the lobby of the Post Street Theater, waiting to take our seats before the Opening of "Burn the Floor." For one thing, the audience was easily a full generation younger than usual, with far less jewelry and considerably hipper shoes. For another thing, there was an honest excitement in the air. Premieres always evoke a sense of being where one is supposed to be, but this was more -- ballroom dancing has become nationwide now, thanks to "Dancing with the Stars," and the packed SF theater audience had come to see these folks dance.

As for this theater reviewer, he was thanking God he wouldn't be in for another night of witty banter interspersed with depressing angst.

Judging from audience reaction, the dance people got what they wanted. They cheered loudly and enthusiastically, usually the second one of the boy dancers took off his shirt. The theater reviewer found moments to cheer about too, but he would not be honest if he did not comment that 75% of the show looked and sounded like a taped Super Bowl Dance-o-Ganza on the Cirque du Soleil model.

Two excellent live percussionists took up the entire top of the set, with six stairs between them, down which would descend various singers and dancers with canes, wearing gowns of every color or tuxes with no shirts. There was NO fat to be seen on stage. The women had gorgeous bare backs and the men had rippling bare fronts.

The best moments of "Burn the Floor" were when the taped music (augmented by the live percussionists) died down and the beautiful Australian pair Damon and Rebecca Sugden took the stage. In the first act, they waltzed, she in a white gown and he in a black tux; and in the second act they, oh I don't know what it was, but it was very beautiful. These two made it look like touching and connecting really was the point here, instead of the man dancer strutting across the stage carrying a chair like a lion tamer's weapon, with his partner grimacing like she had just blown out a hammie.

It was also quite appealing when the dancers danced up and down the aisles. People sitting near an aisle got to see just how athletic and graceful these dancers are, as the lights caught their sweat as well as their smiles.

"Burn the Floor" was created in 1997 by Harley Medcalf, after the famed 50th Birthday Party in England for Sir Elton John, at which Medcalf was a guest. The act was amplified and taken around the world. Then Australian dancer Jason Gilkison took it over and made it into what it is today: a very successful, traveling company of muscular and va-voomy dancers, doing ensemble cheesecake, with lots of sass, strut, gorgeous costumes and man cleavage.

The costumes are something to behold, perhaps reaching a peak in Act One during "Knights in White Satin," where red, green and purple gowns are joined by blue and magenta.

The Slovakian dude did have some impressive pecs, lats and abs. There was one dancer who appeared to be off-white, but only one, as far as we could tell. Does this matter, in San Francisco in 2009? Dunno. It did to us. This is not your grandpa's ballroom dancing, but it may be yours.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division acknowledges that it knows less than it should about dance. As a dance performance, let's say we'll give it three and a half stars, because the dancers danced with great energy and dynamism. As a theater piece, let's say two and a half stars, because everything was on one level, the first act went on a long time with only two or three fine moments, and though Act Two topped Act One, it stayed on the same emotional plane. The Basic Laws of Mathematics say: THREE STARS with a BANGLE of Praise. The BANGLE is earned for the versatility of both percussionists. A live band would have made this show a lot less TV and a whole lot more memorable.

"Burn The Floor"
Post Street Theatre
450 Post Street, San Francisco
Tue-Sun through Mar 15

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