Dance: The new Pan's People
Burn the Floor Royal Albert Hall, London The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs Riverside Studios, London
Sunday 07 November 1999
The producer Harley Medcalf hit on the idea after seeing the ballroom dancing display at Elton John's 50th birthday party. Ballroom, he decided, was ripe for a revamp. Throw out the bouffant and sequins; add in loud music, club-style clothes and sexy young performers. With a bit of of stylistic tweaking it could even become a youth cult.
The age-spread of the ecstatic Albert Hall audience didn't rule this out, though I suspect Burn the Floor's chief fanbase will be the types who still miss Saturday Night at the London Palladium on TV. All the down- tempo numbers are in this vein, though imaginative input is high. There's a Viennese waltz in which a dozen crinolines light up like lampshades; a top-hat-and-tails sequence with the men steering dummies on castors. These slip down with all the silky sugariness of a good egg flip.
But the tone falters several times through the evening. I don't think we were supposed to laugh in the street-mugging scene which segued the Waltz into the Grunge/Punk sequence, but the sight of a Joachim Cortez lookalike standing tightening his six-pack while his clothes were ripped from him prompted loud guffaws. It was less clear what anyone was supposed to think of the women in Barbara Windsor wigs and heart-shaped bunny tails. It had to be ironic, yet one was uneasily aware of this show's need to please everyone, including those who want and expect something pink and frilly. The identity crisis is never fully addressed.
Burn the Floor is at its confident best in the Latin styles. And you don't need to know your cha-cha-cha from your urban cha cha to appreciate the sheer verve of the dancing. Anthony van Laast's choreography is impressively varied, though in the "modern" numbers the legacy of Pan's People (his baby, all those years ago) is perhaps rather too evident. All that air- punching and pouting, and women looking angry about nothing in particular. They also have a tendency as they dance to muss their hair over their faces while opening their mouths - a cheap trick from porn movies which a choreographer really ought to rise above.
But these are mere matters of taste. If you can leave that killjoy luggage at the door, Burn the Floor is a fabulous show whose energy hits you in the face like the blast from an oven. The final routine - they call it hiphop but it's really a free-for-all - is a marathon of high spirits that lifts the roof and puts a grin on your face all the way home. And the fashion tips come as a bonus. Of all Bonita Bryg's wild designs, the fringed white leather two-piece with cut-out buttock area took the biscuit.
Kinky clothing is the staple of Lea Anderson's latest offering, which re-unites The Cholmondeleys (her all-female group) with The Featherstonehaughs (her all-bloke group) and throws in a couple of inspired musicians who call themselves The Victims of Death (who, come to think of it, did look a bit peaky). Anderson's strength has always been her visual-art interest, drawn on to memorable effect in her last show which animated the life- drawings of Egon Schiele. In Smithereens, she fixes on the 1920s movements of Dada and Bauhaus, using the fragmented format of Berlin cabaret to string together a series of kooky movement-and-design motifs. The result is something like the Kit Kat Klub during a blackout on the night Liza Minnelli didn't show for work. Dance-invention is not the show's selling point. It's the cumulative effect of repetitive gesture that motors the show along, the dancers spooling across your line of vision like tape reeling off a machine, then reappearing as if on an audio loop. It's a stylish idea, but ennui is also part of the package. More intriguing over the long term is the dialogue between the two musicians and an ancient wind-up gramophone, which at one stage echoes with creepy precision a piece of hi-tech sound-sampling the pair have apparently just made up. Clever.
But Sandy Powell's costumes are the main reason to buy a ticket. A fibre- optic evening gown in the form of an ostrich. Cat suits with peep-hole cleavages (for men as well as women). Blue-haired gorgons on stilts. Back-to-front face masks. For a mercifully brief 90 minutes, Third Reich decadence rides again.
The Cholmondeleys: Belfast Festival (028 9066 5577) tonight & Mon; Liverpool Everyman (0151 709 4776) Tues & Wed; Wyvern, Swindon (01793 524481) Fri; and touring
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
- 5 Britain First picture: Photographer 'horrified' after first Afghan policewoman killed by Taliban used for 'ban the burka' campaign
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, review: Revolution still seems far off
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God