Tuesday night's performance of "Burn the Floor" began with the faintest touch of burlesque. A dancer shimmied out and flirted with a couple of audience members, one of whom she coerced into kissing her hand, her elbow, her shoulder and – whoops! – her lips (he aimed for the cheek, but she turned her head at the last minute). Cheeky monkey.
Afterward, the whole house started to sizzle. The company of 18 – all trained in professional, competitive ballroom dancing, or dancesport – blasted out the Cha Cha, Jive, the Lindy, Swing, the Samba, the Rumba and more. In total, the company celebrated 10 standard and Latin dances. But, with Jason Gilkison's creative direction and choreography, they presented each in a wholly unexpected way.
Under vocalist Jessica Lingotti's heavy-lidded "History Repeating," couples broke from the elegant Viennese Waltz into the Foxtrot, some toe-tapping Swing and then several others before allowing patrons to catch their breaths. After another Samba, two Rumbas and "Fishies" reeled in Jive and Cha Cha, a bit of calm waltzed in.
In particular, the Waltz performed to "Pastorale" conjured an impression of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The couple's remarkable fluidity seemed impossible, but there it was. Sheer talent, plus a long gown to help disguise the intricate footwork, made this illusion possible. While the male dancer didn't have the benefit of floor-length fabric, he still made his feet fly in elegance. The scene was incredibly beautiful, and it all looked so easy.
By the end of the first act, my eyes had glazed over from so much visual stimulation. However, the 20-minute intermission prepped me for an even better Act II. Two fierce Paso Dobles evoked Latin passions, while a Rumba danced to "Burn for You" nearly steamed up my contact lenses.
My favorite moment was the Jive for "Proud Mary." After the rigors of watching limbs move in ways previously unfathomable, I wanted to jump up and shake my booty. Thankfully, the moment passed as the show came to its Cha Cha-ing end.
The only negatives were the hints of Las Vegas or cruise ship cheese, which stayed mostly within Act I. Some of the women's cheap-looking costumes contributed to this quality. Form should have carried just as much weight as function.
Within the tight choreography, the dancers' personalities emerged with a hair toss, a smile, a hoot or a wink. They were enjoying themselves, and that lent a special power to the show's kinetic energy. Frankly, watching these lithe and lean phenoms move was exhausting, but it was worth it.
BURN THE FLOOR
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Morsani Hall, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa; call (813) 229-7827 or visit www.strazcenter.org
Tickets: $38.50 to $79.50
Running time: 95 minutes