JASON GILKISON INTERVIEW – BURN THE FLOOR REINVENTED

Published on 25th May, 2012

JASON GILKISON is one of Australia’s most successful choreographers having risen through the ranks of the Ballroom Competition world with dance partner Peta Roby to become undefeated Latin champions from 1981 to 1997. During this time they also became World, British and International Champions. Since then, Jason has choreographed numerous stage shows from Happy Days, Dame Edna, Sydney Olympic closing ceremony feature to multiple segments on So You Think You Can Dance Australia and USA where the series is currently in its 9th season!

Perhaps the most successful of Jason’s choreographic accomplishments is a show that ultimately put him ‘on the map’ as one of the world’s greatest Ballroom dancers and choreographic directors.

I caught up with Jason for a few quick words as BURN THE FLOOR REINVENTED heads to town after its smash hit run on Broadway. Here’s what Jason had to say …

JASON, HOW IS ‘BURN THE FLOOR REINVENTED’ DIFFERENT TO EARLIER PRODUCTIONS?

The biggest thing is that the show changes constantly. When we started the show 13 years ago we were determined to never ‘freeze’ the show and make it more like a company that changes and evolves than say a cruise ship show that stays standard for years. It means much more rehearsal but evolving is the secret to keeping great dancers in the show. It is always as interesting and fresh for them as it is for us as a production team and for the audience to enjoy!

WHERE DO YOU DRAW YOUR INSPIRATION AND ARTISTIC FLAVOUR FROM?

I draw from a lot of different places. I’m very big on looking to the past for inspiration. I grew up in the 1960s and 70s Ballroom Dancing world which is reflected in a lot of my pieces but I also look to the origins of some of the more modern Ballroom styles in the dance halls of Harlem of the 1930s which was a very exciting time. I am always looking at ways of bringing the energy of that era to the stage. Ballroom dance has a very long social history because people did it when they went out to relax and socialise. To me Ballroom Dance is a very accessible dance style and I love looking at ways to make it more exciting.

WHAT ARE YOU FAVOURITE STYLES OF BALLROOM DANCE TO WORK WITH?

When I was a competitor, my partner Peta and I were really well known for our Latin styles (Cha Cha, Samba, Pasa Doble, Rumba & Jive). Now though, I love the more traditional Ballroom styles. I have been somewhat niched in the US as a choreographer of the Viennese Waltz with the So You Think You Can Dance program.  I love finding ways to reinvent that dance. Waltz is the first ballroom dance of all time with a history of hundreds of years. I love getting a classically trained ballet dancer or contemporary dancer and teaching them a great Ballroom routine. I usually find that they end up loving Ballroom just as much.

When we started ‘Burn the Floorwe went with very strictly trained ballroom dancers – the best being from the Ukraine and China.  But now have dancers with extra ‘tools in their belt’ and at least 3 other dance genres in their bodies. Robbie Kmetoni, who won So You Think You Can Dance Australia in 2010 has been part of the Burn The Floor cast for two years now and he loves it so much he wants to specifically be a Ballroom Dancer.

The future of the show is steeped in the fusion of dance skills and the marriage of genres – the range of movement that our dancers now have because of their training across different genres is phenomenal.

WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THIS SEASON’S CAST?

‘Burn the Floor’ has become kind of like an ‘It’s a Small World’ mix of performers from across the globe. Since our most recent Broadway production which ran for 8 months, the cast has been rejuvenated. We’d had people for over 10 years in the cast however over the past 12 months we have been collecting cast members from Lithuania, South Africa, Italy, Ireland – all over the place – it’s quite an eclectic mix! It’s very interesting to be in a class room situation teaching choreography to a group with such a diverse background and mix of technique interpretation.

WHAT CAN AUDIENCES EXPECT FROM ‘BURN THE FLOOR REINVENTED’?

Audiences in general now know so much more about Ballroom because of shows like ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ so what they can expect is a reinvention of Ballroom that excites and delivers amazing entertainment. We keep moving the show and its artistic licence creatively and healthily forward which I’m sure audiences are going to love!

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU JASON?

Well, I’m really excited to see that there is going to be some new dance shows in Australia – really excited we are doing some new stuff here. Dance has really progressed … I have just started season 9 of SYTYCD in the USA so I’ll be splitting myself in two a fair bit, jumping countries all the time! I guess I’ll be using my flight time to do my choreography with a glass of wine in hand!

THANK YOU JASON AND BEST WISHES FOR THE SHOW!


Comments

  1. avatar Posted by Arthur Fong on May 27th, 2012 [Reply]

    We are lucky to have a talented young man in the dancing world – keep up the good work and all the best in “Burn the Floor”.

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