May 2007

Floor Play
presented by Burn the Floor
Produced by
Harley Medcalf
Choreographed by
Jason Gilikson
May 10 – 12, 2007 The Hummingbird Centre Toronto
Report by Lesley Mitchell-Clarke with photos (from rehearsal) by Mike Colyer
The brief two-day, four-performance stint at Toronto’s Hummingbird Centre of Burn the Floor’s latest dance extravaganza, Floor Play was all too brief, and has left rabid fans (including myself!) clamouring for more. Floor Play is a dynamic, nuclear-fission propelled trip into the very heart and soul of 'Ballroom Dance', and could have easily filled any house to capacity for a nice, long run in this hard-boiled city.
Floor Play is the latest in several wildly successful international shows produced by the U.K. based company Burn the Floor. Producer Harley Metcalf first perceived the germ of this dance presentation after seeing “sixteen young, energetic dancers mesmerize a packed room in a twenty minute dance display” at the fiftieth birthday party of ultimate host and showman, Sir. Elton John. The first fully realized Burn the Floor show was launched in 1997, with a new incarnation touring globally nearly every year since.

Floor Play has endless appeal to a wide demographic (including young people interested in dance) and features sixteen exquisite dancers (eight couples) from such far flung locations as Russia, Britain, Italy, Sweden and Australia. The youthful and thoroughly professional cast performs Aussie Jason Gilikson’s inspired choreography with sinuous perfection and unbridled energy. Previous to the opening number (the Brazilian Samba, “Magalenha”), several members of the company playfully interacted with audience members until the entire cast entered the theatre from various egress points, pulsating and resonating with the electric samba beat created by the two percussionists onstage. The mercury rose so high during this number that it was almost as if the audience were being saturated with liquid pheromones. To quote from the Oscar-winning film, Jerry McGuire, “They had me at hello”.

Floor Play is the effective distillation of what Producer Harley Medcalf has learned from all of his successful previous productions. Instead of being overwhelmed by mammoth set pieces and unwieldy character costumes, Brian Thomson’s stage setting is oddly spare — giving the dancers a terrific, open tri--level dance space, allowing the dancers to enter and exit the apron from locations inside the theatre — involving the audience and making each person more than merely an observer. Lighting designer Jason Fripp created stunning night-sky projections on the scrim, and the liberal use of the smoke machine created a dream-like environment, that transported the audience into an alternate reality where emotion, beauty and romance run wild. The evening was 'hosted' and interspersed with performances by two skilled vocalists, Kieron Kulik and Rebecca Verrier. These two versatile performers (notably Kulik — who also displayed considerable dance chops) parenthesized the dance numbers, set the stage and mood, added dimension and provided the melodic structure for the various choreographed pieces.

Although instrumental tracks were used during the production, the primary musical focus was the onstage presence of two master percussionists (Henry Soriano and Alex Leon). Each musician had his own extensive drumming set-up — respectively on the stage right and stage left areas. Soriano and Leon utilized just about every type of percussion instrument imaginable, including timbales, timpani, mark trees, standard trap sets and some unidentifiable things that looked as if they had sprung from the mind of the late Dr. Seuss. The organic effect of this percussive element was staggering, and catapulted the dancers through a fresh, revolutionary programme of Latin, Swing, Quick-Step, Fox Trot, Pasa Double, Cha-Cha, Rhumba, Waltz and other dance forms that are part and parcel of today’s Ballroom Dance.
It would be remiss not to mention the magnificent costumes created for Floor Play by Catherine Mayne. Not only were they a treat to the eye, but functioned beautifully as dance wear — never inhibiting the performers, but enhancing every beautiful move and gesture. The costumes were also somewhat modular (particularly for the male dancers), incorporating jackets and other accessories for optimum effect and dramatic transitions.

Stand-out numbers in this full-throttle entertainment had to be the opening Samba, the rousing Swing section (“Harlem Nights”) that closed Act One, Latin segments from Act Two (“Fire in the Ballroom”) and the superbly executed Disco-era closer (complete with “Disco Ball”!) choreographed to The Andrea True Connection’s disco-era flag waver, (later re-done by The Miami Sound Machine) “Turn the Beat Around”.

The next time that we are fortunate to have a Burn the Floor show stop here in The Big Smoke, run…don’t walk to get your tickets for this enriching and thoroughly joyous presentation.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Lesley Mitchell-Clarke
• • • • • •
Mike Colyer
• •
The Live Music Report

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