Burn The Floor… Damn Straight

Burn The Floor... Damn StraightLast night DanceLife went to the opening night of FloorPlay, the new instalment from the Burn The Floor shows. Choreographed by the super talent Jason Gilkison the show was nothing short of phenominal. Floorplay features more than 20 international dancers, singers and musicians – serving up an edgy, theatrical performance that takes the audiences on an emotional journey through the very essence of dance. There’s the elegance of a classic Waltz, the raw vitality of Samba, Salsa, Tango, Swing and turbo-charged Jive – all delivered by this troupe of champion dancers, backed by live Latin percussionists, triumphantly taking the traditional form to dizzying new heights. Burn The Floor’s Floorplay brings the drama and pure sensuality of dance to life…live on stage in a high-energy, two-hour spectacular that will leave you panting for more.
DanceLife caught up with Jason while he was in Tokyo to chat about the show and how ballroom dancing has evolved over the years.
1. You have been a part of Burn The Floor since 1999 as performers and took over as the choreographer in 2001. What would you say it was the you brought to the show to give it that lift and freshness that has make the brand still successful after all these years?
At first it was just a case of being in the right place at the right time. The director at the time Anthony Van Lasst , needed someone that could interpret the Ballroom terminology for him and help provide him with choreographic language for the Ballroom dancers. A few weeks later the Producers were so happy with the results, they asked me to rechoreograph large chunks of the show. The secret to making this all work for so many years and still keep the freshness for the Ballroom dancers, is to never freeze the show. You have to allow them room to develop and grow as performers and obviously adapt their choreography accordingly. I also encourage them to bring their ideas to the table, so it feels like a really exciting artistic process when we all come into rehearsal.
2. In September the newest show from Burn The Floor, Floorplay opens in Sydney. What can audiences expect to see in this production?

Now that the general public have a basic understanding of Ballroom dancing, due to seeing so much of it with TV programmes like DWTS and more recently SYTYCD, what we like to think we offer is a more in depth look at the dances that are now quite familiar to them. We want people not only to sit watching these dances, but feel the experience of what it would have been like to feel the excitement and the electricity in these amazing dance halls of the 1930’s and 40’s, but of course, we want this to be an interpretation of how the expressions of this generation of dancers would interpret those timeless situations.
3. In 2005 you started experimenting with music and dance styles, taking ballroom out of the box. What inspired you when creating this new movement in dance and were you afraid of what the ‘traditional’ ballroom world would say?

When we started it was always our intention that this would not be a project that would be forgetting all the hard work all the generations of ballroom dancers before us had done, in other words we did not want to go for a shock value reinterpretation of this art form, rather the premise was as if we found a beautiful piece of your grandmothers jewellery removed the beautiful gem, which is the essence of the piece and present it in a modern setting. We constantly have to keep coming back to this analogy, because ultimately what we want to do is get back on track with the interpretation of these Ballroom dances.
4. Back in 2005 you said “Dancing is a public vertical expression of what people do in private.” How difficult is it to cast this show in terms of finding dancers that capture every essence of the emotion in every routine?
It is Funny, we find our cast in two different ways, usually they come to us because the idea of the project excites them and they are perhaps a little rebellious by nature in the Ballroom industry, so fortunately we audition a lot of people in this mind space…..but of course half of the company also come by Peta and I travelling the world on the Ballroom circuit, where we are always lucky to see specific dancers whom we really want to approach about the possibility of doing this project. The one thing that unites all of our dancers are a very open minded attitude towards their art form….another is passion and respect for this idea. Everybody in our company seems to be on a mission to really tell their story.
5. Although for most Australian’s their introduction to you was on the first season of SYTYCD you have been wowing audiences from many countries for many years now. You and your partner Peta were undefeated champions for 16 years. Explain how you met Peta and what you were looking for in a dance partner?
Peta and I have a very unusual beginning. Our parents were both professional dance couples in my grandfathers studio back in Perth. We were babies in the basinet together in the dance studio, so rather than choice, i guess we were more or less placed together. We official though started dancing when we were 7 years old. ….very well matched because we were both a couple of ‘chubbies’….actually we were quite dreadful…but we had a ball and loved every second of it!..maybe this is the secret of longevity, we are still dancing together. We were lucky enough to always share the same goals and dreams, and of course we have a very similar work ethic.
6. STYTYD has taken dance to a new level in Australia. How has SYTYCD Australia changed your life?
I think for the most part, my life is still the same, but SYTYCD have opened a lot of new doors for me. I have just started work on the American season, which is so exciting, and I have to admit, working with a group of young dancers that fall into the privileged position of the top 20, is nothing short of invigorating. Funnily enough though, when you come back to work in the dance company, I still seem to be in fast motion from the stress of having to churn it out so quickly for each week of the show.
7. What are your plans once you have completed this season of Floorplay? Can we expect to see you in the next season of SYTYCD?

I am hoping that this season of “FloorPlay” is actually not going to end , as it is my dream to keep this one going for as long as humanly possible. This is really the first show that I have created from the ground up, so it is very close to my heart, I kind of don’t want it to end…..Of course I am really excited about series 2 of SYTYCD. In America this series really took off after the 2nd and 3rd one, so I am really expecting Australia to deliver.
Star Theatre, Star City Casino
From 19 September 2008
Currently on sale until Oct 11
Tickets through Ticketmaster 1300 795 267
Tickets from $49 through to $89