Theatre Review: “Burn the Floor” @ Broadway San Jose, 09/21/10

Broadway San Jose opened their second season with a sizzling hot production of Burn the Floor. It’s not your run-of-the-mill dance show. It’s sexy, intense, passionate and all around amazing. I’ve never been a huge fan of ballroom dance because of the rigid rules, look and form but Burn the Floor defies every rule and they’ve created a new show, they call, “Ballroom. Reinvented”. The production team and dancers have truly reinvented ballroom dance.

The best part of the evening: Mary Murphy’s gigantic smile that radiated throughout the San Jose Performing Arts Center.

Mary Murphy – a championship ballroom dancer, choreographer, and judge on So You Think You Can Dance – is dancing again in Burn the Floor. Every few numbers, she would gracefully take the stage and perform, usually with her partner Vaidas Skimelis – the current U.S. National Latin American finalist. Murphy was last seen dancing on Season 4 of SYTYCD – quite awhile ago. When asked if it was going to be tough to pick up the old routines, she said, “No, no, I don’t think it’ll be tough.” And you could tell that it wasn’t hard for her. Her elegant poise and fantastic stage presence was so fun to watch. She lit up the stage every time she performed. She was definitely on that “Hot Tamale Train” when she came out and performed, “Proud Mary”. San Jose is lucky; Murphy is only scheduled to perform in San Jose and San Diego.

The amazing part of this production is that every single dancer, singer and musician came from the West End production, except for Skimelis. This isn’t your “replacement cast” or even a “non-equity tour”. Basically, they’ve transferred the London production to San Jose. I don’t think I have seen a group of dancers with that much talent anywhere on a stage before. They are the best-of-the-best. Each dancer was so unique in their look, style and body type and the choreographer/director, Jason Gilkison, found ways to feature each one of them. But, every time there was a group number, every movement was precise and performed exactly in sync as an entire group. It was stunning to watch.

The energetic choreography goes through four different segments – Inspirations (a fresher approach that featured a variety of Ballroom dances), Things that Swing (Cha Cha, Swing, Quickstep, Jive, and Lindy), The Latin Quarter (Cha Cha, Rumba, Salsa, Samba, Tango and Paso Doble) and finally CODA – The Last Part (a mix of everything). There were so many amazing moments throughout the show that I can’t even begin to outline them all. A few that stand out: “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, “Burn for You” and “Proud Mary”. I especially loved when the talented vocalists, Peter Saul and Rebecca Tapia would perform. I loved Saul’s rendition of “Burn for You” and the accompanying dance was absolutely beautiful. Tapia’s “Proud Mary” was hot! Both vocalists could easily be stars in their own right.

The only thing that was toned-down from the original production (I’m assuming) was the orchestrations. The only two musicians on stage are two percussionists: Joseph Malone and Henry Soriano. While, they were both fantastic, some of the accompanying tracks sounded too synthesized and lost some their originality. They interspersed real recorded instruments and synthesized sounds throughout the entire score. Most of the time it was done quite well, but there were a few moments that really stood out and sounded fake and a bit cheesy. But generally, you are so entranced with what’s happening on stage, it didn’t really matter.

You don’t have to watch SYTYCD or Dancing with the Stars to love Burn the Floor. While these two TV shows have fueled America’s new interest and love for ballroom dancing, it’s high time to get off the couch and see some live ballroom dancing, because this dynamic 2-hour show is better than anything you’ll ever see on TV. I guarantee it.

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