By Nick Pilgrim
Just as Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean did for figure skating (Face The Music) or Michael Flatley with Celtic Folk (Riverdance / Lord Of The Dance), Burn The Floor turns the conservative world of ballroom upside down. What was once perceived as staid or proper, has become sensual, sparkling, and athletic instead.
The concept began on a whim when founder, Harley Medcalf, witnessed a dynamic support act arranged to help celebrate Elton John’s fiftieth birthday. From there, he assembled a team of eager young professionals from scratch including Australia’s own World Ballroom Champions, Peta Roby and Jason Gilkison.
Growing from strength to strength since that fateful epiphany, in 2023 his internationally renowned vision celebrates twenty-five fabulous years. To date, the company has visited more than 180 cities in 30 countries around the globe.
Similar in structure to Torvill and Dean, and Flatley’s respective touring models, Burn The Floor takes a deceptively simple approach to live entertainment. Built around a single theme, their latest production is a solid mixture of elaborate dance routines interwoven with live cover music. For two jam-packed hours (divided in half by a fifteen-minute interval), my plus-one for the evening and I were completely hooked.
Sometimes using props such as tables, chairs, and even a Hills Hoist clothesline as part of Burn The Floor’s choreography, added to the overall sense of intense risk and drama. The dancers performed solo or in pairs, trios, or all at once in mixed gender and same sex couples. Created in earth tones to reflect the Australian theming and later, a multitude of bright sequined shades, gorgeous form-fitting costumes accentuated both the dancers’ sense of line as well as their finely-toned bodies.
Narrative dance is an extremely challenging art form. To achieve true success, telling a valid story relies on so many interwoven components such as set design, costumes, sound, lighting, and pace. When it triumphs, viewers are able to appreciate performance as both physical expression and a non – verbal language.
Burn The Floor is backed by a five-strong band featuring:
- Tyler Azzopardi (Vocals & Percussion)
- Lea Firth (Vocals)
- Pat Madden (Drums)
- Mark Stefanoff (Vocals, Keyboard & Violin)
- Jamie Valente (Lead Guitar)
Strutting their stuff to a pulsating selection of Australian rock and pop classics, the company’s talented dance troupe includes:
- Sriani Argaet
- Jemma – Sue Armstrong
- Sermsah Bin Saad
- Julian Caillon
- Lily Cornish
- Albert David
- Jorjia Freeman
- Sophie Holloway
- Robbie Kmetoni
- Lyu Masuda
- Craig Monley
- Anne Jannette Phillips
- Jessica Raffa
- Gustavo Viglio
Using an accessible collection of songs as the show’s launching pad, Burn The Floor showcased more than twenty dance and musical set pieces from the likes of:
- ‘Absolutely Everybody’ (by Vanessa Amorosi)
- ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’ (Jet)
- ‘Chandelier’ (Sia)
- ‘Fishies’ (The Cat Empire)
- ‘Fly Away’ (Tones and I)
- ‘Get Back To The Land’ (Archie Roach)
- ‘Gold’ (Guy Sebastian)
- ‘Highway To Hell’ (AC/DC)
- ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ (INXS)
- ‘Staying Alive’ and ‘To Love Somebody’ (The Bee Gees)
- ‘When The War Is Over’ (Cold Chisel)
Just to name a few.
From start to finish, this is an experience for fans of great music and complex movement alike. Readers who have attended shows or concerts in recent years, will be familiar with spoken or prerecorded variations on the Acknowledgement To Country which likely precede these events.
Drawing on the following quote from their official souvenir program…
“The Burn The Floor family strive to amplify First Nations voices, support self-determination, and work towards reconciliation through our powerful medium of dance and song.
In creating this show, Burn The Floor has embarked on a journey as a celebration of learning, reflection and discovery.”
Centered around these ideas, Walanbaa Yulu-Gi incorporates the First Nations talents of Mitch Tambo (vocals), Lele (vocals), Albert David (principal dancer), and Sermsah Bin Saad (dancer).
Breaking both cultural and political barriers, all four are pioneers in their respective artistic fields.
Special Guest Tambo is the name audiences will most likely recognize.
The colourful singer kick-started his career on the reality television series, Australia’s Got Talent. During the artist’s time on the show, Tambo made a significant mark by singing Australian hits in his native Indigenous tongue. The impact was immediate, and it is that poetic quality he brings to Burn The Floor. Joined by his wife, Lele (also a First Nations performer), the feeling in the room was one of immense pride, passion, and power.
Bookending the show, Tambo introduced the show by detailing his personal background, as well as acknowledging fellow company members, Albert David and Sermsah Bin Saad, for helping to pave the way in his own professional journey.
As hoped, one of the evening’s many highlights was Tambo’s interpretation of John Farnham’s anthem, The Voice. It’s significance and political pertinence was definite icing on the cake.
Some shows take a village to build, and Burn The Floor is no exception. The extensive support team includes:
- Peta Roby (Director)
- Alberto Faccio (Creative Director)
- Tyler Azzopardi (Musical Direction)
- Jorja Freeman and Robbie Kmetoni (Choreography)
- Derek Wilson (Head Of Sound Design)
- Adam Nicholls (Head of Lighting Design)
- James Krozner and Jeremy Foil (Set Design)
Following this season’s Melbourne launch earlier this week, the company plans to tour at selected venues around Australia before heading overseas and wrapping up on Broadway next June.
Burn The Floor’s fusion blend will satisfy fans and followers of dance, meanwhile introducing newcomers to the medium led by Mitch Tambo and an entirely Australian musical score.
The show plays for a strictly limited season at The Palms Showroom located in Crown Casino until Sunday July 30.
This is World Class entertainment for the entire family not to be missed.
Images: Belinda Strodder