Burn the Floor Blows the Roof Off

Special Features   Burn the Floor Blows the Roof Off For Burn the Floor, now playing an extended run on Broadway, it all began in 1997, at Elton John's 50th birthday party.
Patrick Helm and Sharna Burgess
Patrick Helm and Sharna Burgess Photo by Mark Kitaoka

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He had asked for a 20-minute Latin and ballroom dance show to be part of the gala, a huge party attended by the who's who of British entertainment.

"There were eight couples in the dance show, and they blew the roof off," says Jason Gilkison, who was one of those overseeing the dancing and is now Burn the Floor's creator, director and choreographer. "I don't think anybody expected it to happen. The producer, Harley Medcalf, was in the audience, and he wondered why no one had taken this art form and created a show. Burn the Floor was conceived that night."

Burn the Floor is a super-sexy Latin and ballroom dance spectacular. It has been traveling the world through more than 30 countries, for over a decade — and now it has pirouetted onto Broadway at the Longacre Theatre. Its 18 award-winning dancers come from around the world — the United States, England, Malaysia, Slovenia and Australia. The dances in its Broadway ballroom range from cha-cha, rumba, mambo and salsa to Lindy, fox-trot, quickstep and Charleston to waltz, jive, paso doble and swing.

"I think it's perfect timing for the show," says Gilkison, himself a former world champion dancer with his longtime partner, Peta Roby, who is now an associate producer of Burn the Floor. "It seemed inevitable that we would try to get to Broadway. The general public seems to have an understanding about ballroom dancing that for so many years was dormant. All of a sudden, thanks to reality TV shows like 'So You Think You Can Dance?' and 'Dancing With the Stars,' ballroom dancing is back!" For Gilkison, who has been a choreographer on "So You Think You Can Dance," his love of the art began in his grandfather's dance studio in Australia. "It was a wonderful way to grow up, seeing people enjoying themselves dancing. All the ideas I've had for shows originated in my favorite memories of my grandfather's studio."

He and Roby began working together as a team at age seven — "my parents used to joke that we were dancing babies in a basinet." Eventually, they became Australian champions, moved to London and wound up world champions.

His choreography for Burn the Floor infuses a modern feel into beloved dances from another era. "We want people to rediscover something pure from their grandparents' day, but with the attitude of today."

Rebecca Sugden and Damon Sugden
Rebecca Sugden and Damon Sugden Photo by Mark Kitaoka
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