Created, Directed and Choreographed by Jason Gilkison
Longacre Theatre, West 48th near Broadway

Reviewed by David Spencer

As a drama critic, I feel very qualified to discuss events that use the toolkit elements toward the end of dramatization; if there’s an attempt to portray a story or an occasion that involves actors playing characters, even a piece for a single actor, or a revue of songs with a thematic connection, stuff like that, in any style from black box minimalism to spectacle musical, I feel at home and expert.

               But a dance concert, something like the ballroom-ish Burn the Floor, tends to leave me a little at sea. Not for lack of appreciation, but lack of a meaningful measuring rod. I liked it? I didn’t like it? What good are such appraisals?

               The show presents collages (medleys?) of types of dances, I guess hewing to what ballroom has become in recent decades, absorbing more contemporary musical genres, concentrating only briefly on what we’d think of as “traditional” ballroom dances and styles. The cast are comprised of an international roster of prizewinners in the field. And the show is directed and choreographed by Jason Gilkison, himself an international awardee.

               In terms of lighting, musical direction, sharpness of choreography, it all seemed perfectly fine to me; though I had a reaction that I almost was too self-conscious to write—though apparently it’s a telling one, according to more ballroom-savvy friends and colleagues who’ve seen the show as well.

               Much like Boston Legal’s Alan Shore (James Spader), who in one episode’s balcony epilogue wistfully mused, “I need a new woman to objectify,” I found myself fixating on one dancer in particular, a native of Russia with the unlikely name (perhaps it is a stage name) of Melanie Hooper. Sporting a skull-hugging helmet of bright red hair, large dark eyes, and an endlessly provocative expression, she dances with the same dynamic expertise as all her colleagues, but has certain signature flourishes, the most memorable of which (to me) was her penchant for flipping her wrist forward and pointing with emphatic long-fingered exuberance  toward the occasional fellow dancer, either in admiration of a move or to “hand off” focus…which in my mind was never quite handed off successfully. (I hasten to add, Ms. Hooper is not a limelight-stealer, at least in no way I could identify; she seems an enthusiastic and devoted team player.)

               It’s been suggested to me that the very reason I was able to devote undue attention to Ms. Hooper—the real reason, quite apart from harmless (I promise) temporary infatuation—is that the show itself isn’t programmed with enough variety to allow me to move with it toward other dancers, dances and segments. Indeed, the segments were perceived by me as one perfectly nice dance gang-bang after another, with little in the way of…well, back to my point of expertise…dramatic variety. It wasn’t dull, but it came at me in a wash—which is pretty much how my significant other and those aforementioned friends and colleagues experienced it too. As if, for all the variety, it was missing a point of view. So in a weird way, I guess I created one for myself, by finding a “main character” to follow through an odyssey. Who, perhaps not incidentally, makes a point of pointing her point of view.

               If you’re into dance just for the thing of it, Burn the Floor may be, well, just the thing. But if you hunger for the element “point of view” in your theatrical adventures…then maybe not so much. And maybe that’s the dividing line for me as well, the joys of Ms. Hooper quite aside…

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