Burn the Floor

Arts Centre Melbourne Burn the FloorI won’t bury the lead, this iteration of Burn the Floor is spectacular. One of the fantastic qualities of the show is consistency – they start as they mean to go on, and the strength of the performances never wavers as they move through to the final curtain.

After some gentle hijinks with a couple of characters who look like they’ve wandered away from a court in Versailles, we discover that isn’t far from the truth. The curtain lifts as the Blue Danube Waltz plays, pairs – dressed in immaculate period costumes – like space crafts from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, moving precise and beautiful together.

And, as Kubrick himself revelled in the grotesque, so too does the scene change. The music gets mucky, all loud and guitars, as a new group of dancers swarm in to vie for the space. Their dancing is direct and percussive, led by a Kurgan-looking fellow, and gradually they take over.

Their costumes – black fabrics, belts & buckles, and butcher’s aprons – are the antithesis to the court dancers (a fetish pannier is one of many subversive elements). Bret Hooper and Sharon Brown’s work on costume design here and across the whole show cannot be understated. It’s work that has to be both practical, but yet aid the storytelling, and is pulled off brilliantly.

The band onstage, Jose Madrid and Andrew Marunowski providing guitars, and especially Alysa Portelli on drums, were great. Sharnielle Hartley and Mikee Introna were splendid together on vocals. Their duet of Halo was a standout as well as a reminder that for dance to engage you emotionally, it doesn’t have to be visceral gymnastics, but can be as small and simple as a last touch on an arm before walking apart.

Thematically, things coalesced by the second-half. Scenes of a gambling den on a vice-ridden street brought an idea of perversion up to the surface in what looked like a Lestat fever dream. Sure enough, one of the dancers slinks out with high-head gear like a licentious pontiff.

You realise here, and certainly by the end of the entire show that it hasn’t solely been about exhibitionism, but also conversion. I’m uncertain what the equivalent of atheism is when speaking of dance, but I left the Arts Centre a believer.

Burn the Floor
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 6 January 2017 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 15 January 2017
Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

For more information, visit: www.burnthefloor.com for details.

Image: Dancers from Burn the Floor (supplied)

Review: David Collins