Burn The Floor – London opening night

Burn The Floor

The Shaftesbury Theatre stage was scorched to a crisp on Monday night as dance sensation Burn The Floor sashayed into London’s West End to a rapturous audience, deserving every moment of the standing ovation that greeted its prolonged curtain call.

Dancers from all over the world – Cuba, Russia, Australia and the US – performed an incredible high energy set, combining fiery Latino beats with the sultry swing of the jazz era, breaking fresh ground in the arena of professional dance. And it’s infectious. I was almost salsa-ing down the office to get my morning tea yesterday, humming Proud Mary as I went.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a powerful display of dance – it’s evolution through the ages, its traditions and the deconstruction of such – ever before on the stage. For any dance fans it’s a no-brainer. But the sex that exudes from each couple and dance group throughout every number (and the general hotness of all the cast members) also guarantee it to be a great date night (boys, take note. You won’t be disappointed).

The history of the show is interesting. Having enjoyed an unexpected extended run on Broadway – a planned 6-week set turned into a 6-month long party – my knowledge of the show stemmed from its New York performance, but as I learned last night the roots of Burn The Floor are actually a lot closer to home.

Bournmouth was its starting point as a dance show, but its inception came about from the birthday party of a certain Sir Elton John. There, a group of dancers took ballroom to a whole new level, breaking down the barriers of tradition and setting new standards of combination dance. Producer Harley Medcalf saw a spark of brilliance in the concept, and Burn the Floor was born.

For me, and for the majority of the folk I spoke to in the bar afterwards, the second half is definitely a great deal stronger than the first, as most good shows should be. It’s faster, tighter and more highly energised. Aside from some cute swing numbers – particularly where one unstoppable fellow bites off more than he can chew, aiming to woo several women at the same time with his incredible dance moves – all my highlights fell in Act 2.

A rendition of Cariño is belted out by the female vocalist, followed by some fierce Spanish flamenco. The pace then drops for the achingly beautiful modern piece, set to male vocals of ‘I Burn For You’. The peace is promptly shattered by the thundering drum beat that directly follows, where the stunning girls whip up a frenzied section in Chicago-style costumes, leading their leather pants-clad male counterparts in a chair-based routine.

The effect is a full on acceleration to the final numbers, which begin with a rousing rendition of Proud Mary – which, as all good Glee fans know, makes a guaranteed show-stopping number (and, Burn the Floor even features a Glee principal dancer, Janette Manrara, who opens the show).

The costumes are sensational, the music is foot-tappingly good. The band – hidden in shadows on a raised platform at the rear of the stage for most of the show – do an incredible job and the vocalists are a powerful addition. There were questions asked as to the live quality of all the music, given that at curtain call only a violinist, saxophonist and drummers were invited forward to take a bow, rather raising the question that some audio may have been a track. But not to the detriment of the performance.

For me (and, it seemed, most of the audience) the traditional ballroom bits were the least engaging, with the notable exception of an impressive mirroring number in the second act, where two perfectly synchronised pairs dance as one thanks to a cleverly placed mesh screen. But in a show that deconstructs the very traditions of ballroom, perhaps this is as it should be.

Ali Bastian and Brian Fortuna

Although I couldn’t finish without a mention of the stars, Strictly‘s Ali Bastian & Brian Fortuna, it does rather speak volumes that I find myself getting this far with a need to mention their involvement. Talented they clearly are, and yes they make a (somewhat sickly sweet) cute couple – so much so in fact, that I couldn’t help feeling their waltz numbers served more to indulge and celebrate their much-publicised romance that burgeoned under the Strictly glitter ball than they did actually contribute to the show.

As Prince & Princess of Strictly, they may rule the floor, but against the backdrop of immense dance ability and experience that Burn The Floor offers, one couldn’t help but feel they were rather superfluous to proceedings. For me, leading men and ladies need to lead, and last night they couldn’t help but follow – not from a lack of talent per se, but simply because the bar was already raised so high.

That said, if their involvement speaks to Strictly fans and provides bums on seats, then I wish them well. And there are reasons a plenty to go and see this show, entertainment TV star names aside.

Burn the Floor is enjoying a limited run at The Shaftebury Theatre until early September. Book now through Ticketmaster or by calling the theatre on +44 (0)20 7379 5399



12 thoughts on “Burn The Floor – London opening night

  1. Quite the reverse, I love that show. Great entertainment. But it has it’s place, and for me Ali & Brian failed to make the transition from small screen glitz to the West End’s BTF. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Well just as well Jason Gilkison didn’t think the same as you then Lucie Bartlett! I have only heard good things of Ali and Brian (who is a fantastic professional dancer anyway) and they certainly are drawing the crowds to attend at the West End so are therefore doing a lot of the promotion work, good thinking on Jason’s part.

    My only hope is that BTF tours this country, if not this year, then perhaps at a later date and I sincerely hope that Ali and Brian will tour with them.

  3. Mmmm, a somewhat interesting review. I actually thought Ali and Brian did really well considering the energy that the regular cast are used to putting into this show and the number of years they have been doing it. They know the choreography and the numbers that are danced inside out. Brian has been doing 3 months of the Pro Tour and managed to learn the choreography of BTF and launch into a 7 week West End leg with barely touching his feet to the floor and Ali is a relative new comer to the world of Ballroom dance.
    Whilst I think your overall review of the show is pretty good I don’t totally concur with your opinions (esp on the Ballroom numbers) and think that you are down-playing Brian and Ali’s respective parts in the show.
    We thoroughly enjoyed it and out of the many many shows I have seen this is the best by a long stretch! This is your opinion to which you are entitled but I am afraid I don’t agree and I am sure that many others would either where Brian and Ali are concerned.

  4. Well I (and many others) are so proud of the achievement that Ali has made in just 11 months from a novice dancer to a West End star. Do you think for one minute that Jason Gilkinson would have put his reputation on the line and hire Brian & Ali if they were not considered a good enough standard to headline his show – NO!

    Lets give some credit here to both of them – Brian was in the Strictly Pro Tour at the same time as trying to rehearse for this show, making it very difficult for both him & Ali to rehearse their routines unless it was his day off (one day per week) & the following day he would have to travel to often the opposite end of the country to perform again.

  5. Not all press agree with you Lucie; another report said that Brian stood out amongst the other professional dancers so I think he deserves some credit at least! Ali is not a trained dancer so one would not expect her to be of quite the same standard but I believe she holds her own & has come on leaps & bounds as a result of trianing with Karen Hardy!!

  6. Lucie, Here are some facts;
    Ali and Brian were invited to be guest dancers in the BTF show. Ali has only been a dancer for the past 11 months or so, and with dedication and commitment has achieved a standard which is worthy of showing at West End. theatre..
    Brian is an extremely talented world class dancer and choreographer.Their romance is to be celebrated, should they permit us do so.
    Thank goodness that many more like minded people can appreciate them, and the show.

  7. Wow folks, thanks for all the responses. Some great points raised and all valid views. Ali and Brian definitely had a lot of support there on the night so I expected my views might not represent the consensus! As I said, I wasn’t for one moment denying the talent of either of them, I just didn’t feel they commanded the presence that I’ve come to expect from dancing leads on the stage.

    Aside from that, it was pretty much a rave review – like you Steph, this is one of the best and most enjoyable shows I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing for some time. Jason and Harley have done a wonderful thing for showcasing dance in its many varied and extraordinary colours, a cause about which I’m passionate. Long may BTF’s success continue.

  8. hello

    You make some quite fair points on your review, I do agree that Burn The Floor is a great stage production that make ballroom dancing be enjoyable for those who aren’t very kin of these style of dance, I also dissapoint it the way you down playing the part that Ali Bastian and Brian Fortuna are platying on the show.

    I went to see the show on Monday, and for me is an amzing show, and the producers paid a lot of attention in every details of the show.
    For me Ali and Brian added a different sparkle to the show, something checky and beauty.
    Ali Bastian hold herself very well and we all know she isn’t a professional dancer, so we can’t expect her be as the same standad as the professional dancers, but she did pretty good in my opion.
    Your opion is valid like eveyone else, but I think that journalist have to be more objective and go further than their own personal opion.

    You said Brian and Ali didn’t make the transition from Strictly to the Stage, well then we watched diferent programs, because when they were on strictly, I saw an Ali Bastian struggling to perform a great latin dancing, even when technique was there, her confidance couldn’t come through thenfore affecting their over all performances.
    On Burn the floor you can see she display a lot of confidance and her performance has been much much better and I think Brian and Ali performances came across very good. I think they made very good transition to the stage.

  9. Thanks Carol. Lots of discussion has been had on this tonight! By transition I didn’t mean to say Ali hadn’t improved – and I wholly agree that they are hugely talented (Brian goes without saying as he’s an established pro, so this the element of debate is really about Ali…). I just don’t think she has become a West End pro overnight, as no one would expect of her.

    As others have indicated, while talented, she is not on a BTF level, simply because she’s been dancing for the last couple of years, when the others have been dancing since they were a couple of years old. And perhaps you’re right that we should not expect her to be.

    I guess my point was that they are great for show, because they undoubtedly deliver wider coverage and awareness and thus audience, which makes the show a success. But to me, personally, they did not ‘lead’ that show – as per their billing.

    Regardless, it’s still sensational.

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