STAGE: Burn the Floor: The Rebel Tour – iZulu Theatre, Sibaya Casino
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
IT WAS hot, hot, hot in Sibaya Casino’s kraal-shaped iZulu Theatre last night, and not only because the air-con seemed to be set too low.
The stage was positively ablaze with the sizzling sex appeal and phenomenal, fiery footwork of the ace team of dancers from various countries who comprise the cast of this unfailingly top-notch, international touring production.
Back in South Africa for the fourth time since first touring here in 2011, the production is directed and choreographed by Peta Roby, and is once again a Ballroom and Latin American dance show on another level.
It is a smouldering brew of ebullience, athleticism, fun and passion that serves complex, perfectly delivered routines that come thick and fast. It certainly ain’t the ballroom your grandma used to know, to quote the show’s blurb. This is a slick and vibrant spectacle featuring challenging moves, good lighting, lightning-fast costume changes and much variety.
Routines are set to recorded music augmented by two on-stage musicians – drummer Mike Swaga and singer-percussionist Tyler Azzopardi – as well as the delicious, Durban-born Lelo Ramasimong, the award-winning star of The Color Purple stage musical and a recent The Voice South Africa finalist.
This marks strong-voiced Ramasimong’s second time starring in a Burn the Floor production, as she featured in the same role in 2016’s Burn the Floor: Fire in the Ballroom, the last show by the Aussie- based company to tour here.
The same set from that production is used again this time around: a lamp-lit courtyard in front of a patio with balustrading that is overlooked by an ornate spiral staircase leading to a large balcony atop a row of arches. Perched on a raised area in another section of the courtyard are the show’s singers and percussionists.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Burn the Floor, with varying line-ups and changing content, has toured to some 30 countries and 160 cities. Its many successes include sellout seasons on Broadway and the West End.
The latest production sticks to the winning formula – skipping along without dialogue to offer a wide range of dance styles by a team performing together, in pairs, varying combinations, with men only, or women only.
The dazzling routines are set to music associated with everyone from Prince, Miriam Makeba, Shakira, Leonard Cohen and Michael Jackson to Joe Cocker, Elvis Presley, James Brown and Carole King, among others.
Highlights include a dramatic number seen in the 2016 touring production. It has the dancers excelling while Ramasimong camps it up in a giant red cape and headdress, singing Habanera from Carmen.
Wonderful throughout is raven-haired principal dancer Victoria Martin, and special mention must also go to the company’s dance captain, blond Stephen Vincent, particularly in partnership with gorgeous Jorja Freeman, performing to Mr Bojangles, a routine which has male dancers providing back-up in tophats and tails.
I also loved the flurry of fringing and freneticism in a sequence set to Santana’s Jingo and the gladiator-like theme built around Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana moving into Rag and Boneman’s Human, very well sung by the towering Azzopardi.
Also a must-mention is the grand finale, set, as always, to that catchy ’70s hit by Sweet, Ballroom Blitz, which leads to a standing ovation for this hard-working and truly exemplary company.
Durban is the final stop of an international tour that has already visited Cape Town and Johannesburg, Tickets for the show, which runs until September 29, cost R285 throughout and booking is at Computicket.