September 8th, 2010 | by HEATHER WISNER News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

LIVE REVIEW: Burn the Floor



Burn the Floor, the nationally touring Broadway show that opened in Portland last night at the Keller, is a midriff-baring, hair-flinging, fog-machine-shrouded gallop through exhibition ballroom dance. This is either good news or bad, depending on your expectations.

If you're expecting the TV show So You Think You Can Dance, minus the chitchat and commercials, you're warm—nearly a half-dozen of Burn's cast members, in fact, are SYTYCD alumni. And the shows follow a similar formula: hire attractive people, throw in a disco ball, sequins and a ballad or two and tart up the action with drama and sex appeal. Burn is split into two briskly paced acts: the first features swing, waltz, quickstep and the like; the second goes Latin with tango, paso doble, samba and so on. Unlike the TV show, the numbers tend to bleed together and the dancers aren't individually credited for them, so figuring out who's dancing what is sometimes a matter of guesswork.

If you're expecting strong dancers, you're in luck—many are competitive ballroom champs who power through a physically demanding night with admirable finesse, though they are saddled with a choreographic tendency to substitute high kicks and showy sudden-death drops for substance. The opening-night crowd favored Latvian bombshell Anya Garnis, a fleet-footed Burn veteran featured out front in several numbers.

If you're expecting gravity of any sort, forget it. Burn the Floor is unapologetically cheesy, although ballroom dance has always had its share of cheese (part of the fun of watching televised ballroom dance competitions in the ‘70s and ‘80s was giggling over the costumes.) Burn has the requisite red gowns to telegraph Latin passion and the toreador outfits on shirtless beefcake, although by ballroom standards, many of the costumes are relatively tasteful, and in the closing number, “Proud Mary” they are even enviable—the desire to shimmy it up in a fringed mini, a la Tina Turner, surely transcends nationality, if not gender.

The show's biggest misstep is including some truly putrid pop tunes: “Knights in White Satin” as a torch song (accompanied by a dancing couple wearing white satin) and a ballad called “Burn for You” for an overwrought duet that, more than anything, suggests the need for a cooling salve. The show does better on group numbers set to traditional music, such as the jumping jive of “I'm a Ding Dong Daddy” and the infections, fringe-flinging samaba of “Magalena” a classic that is essentially impossible not to dance to. In the end, Burn the Floor is a feel-good show that doesn't demand much intellectual investment from its viewers. And hey—sometimes that's enough.

GO: Burn the Floor at Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St., 274-6560. 7:30 pm Wednesday-Friday, Sept. 7-10, 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 11, 1 and 6:30 pm Sunday, Sept. 12. Call 417-0574 or visit portlandopera.org for tickets.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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