REVIEW: Burn the Floor – a high octane homage to the enduring popularity of ballroom

Venue: Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

Performance Date: 31 January 2022

Reviewer: Gemma Fincher

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Thanks to shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing With the Stars, Ballroom dancing has been incredibly popular with mainstream audiences for over two decades. The enduring popularity of such shows have heralded several spin-off tours and made stars of their professional dancers.

Burn the Floor is a live production, showcasing the very best ballroom dancing has to offer. First performed in 1997 at Elton John’s 50th Birthday Party, the show has evolved into a sensational celebration of all things ballroom. The show has performed in over 130 countries, having enjoyed residences on Broadway and London’s West End. Since its conception, it has also featured several alumni of a variety of international versions of Dancing With the Stars, including Strictly Come Dancing.

Former Strictly Pro and fan favourite Kevin Clifton leads the 2022 UK Tour cast in a fiery, energetic, and generally rip-roaring production. Directed and choreographed by Jason Gilkison, the entire show is an explosion of talent. The cast have energy to burn and literally leave everything on the stage, in fact, they make the jaw-dropping choreography look effortlessly easy.

Burn the Floor is a blend of Latin and Ballroom dance, set to some wonderful live music courtesy of some wonderfully accomplished musicians and singers. From the waltz to the tango to the rhumba to the Paso and everything in between, this show has it all in abundance.

You have to feel for Kevin Clifton, in February 2020 he made the brave decision to leave Strictly, the most popular programme on UK television to pursue his career in musical theatre. Less than a month later, COVID had taken hold and the UK theatre industry ground to a halt for the bulk of the ensuing two years. Burn the Floor’s opening is a tongue in cheek nod to this unfortunate twist of fate for Clifton and he wastes no time in reminding us just what a rough ride it’s been.

Clifton leads the cast with authority and the awkward charm that endeared him to so many during his tenure on Strictly. He is inherently likeable, and his enthusiasm is infectious. His joy at being back on stage is palpable, as his is admiration and respect for his castmates.

The Burn the Floor cast is a representation of the future of ballroom and, as Clifton muses, it’s in very safe hands. Whilst there is absolutely no weak link in the cast, there are undoubtedly some absolute standouts. Lauren Oakley is introduced by Clifton as a dancer, who, 10 years ago, wrote to him on Facebook with the ambition of joining the cast of Burn the Floor. Oakley is now the company Dance Captain and one of the most in-demand ballroom dancers in the world. It is impossible to take your eyes off her. She has a magnetic stage presence, the most beautiful lines and offers the most incredible light and shade to her performances. If the likes of Strictly haven’t already knocked Oakley’s door, it is only a matter of time.

Clifton and the cast are elevated even further by the wildly talented musicians. It’s easy to see why vocalists, Chase Kamata and Tyler Azzopardi have been welcomed back for the tour. Kamata’s vocals are breathtaking, and her range is off the charts. The pair deliver a beautiful version of Shallow which is genuinely goose-bump inducing. Guitarist Eugeni Moreno gives shades of Slash and Ritchie Sambora delivering some stunning guitar solos.

The numbers are as diverse as they are outstanding, with the traditional opening of the Blue Danube contrasted by the up-tempo and pulsating Ballroom Blitz closing the show.

Clifton credits this show as the one that always reignites his love for dancing. It’s easy to see why. It’s a spectacular whirlwind of talent, professionalism, and energy. The cast fully deserved their standing ovation for providing such a high quality two hours of perfect escapism.

Runs until: Currently on tour

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