Ballroom show Burn the Floor pushes from tireless into relentless. It’s slick and brisk, with a hard-working cast who are always ready to throw themselves into kicks and tricks. Everybody is so busy giving 110 per cent that they don't have much room for fun.
Burn the Floor launched in 1999, and has toured the world ever since, including Broadway and West End seasons. Most of the dancers are ballroom and Latin dance champions, with a strong sprinkling of reality television experience. The show quickly became a training ground for Strictly Come Dancing, with plenty of dancers joining the BBC show or its international counterparts. The current run, newly revised, features Robin Windsor, Kristina Rihanoff and Karen Hauer, all familiar to the Strictly faithful.
Directed and choreographed by Jason Gilkison, it’s fast-paced and very tightly drilled. 18 dancers drive on from number to number, switching styles and speeds, though always with the same hard, determined edge. They whiz through multiple costume changes, from Fred and Ginger evening dress to the West End’s idea of rock chic (it involves leather jackets and rhinestones).
Sexiness is part of the brand, and Burn the Floor takes its duties very seriously, with lots of pouting and bared flesh. There was a delightful moment on press night, when a man plucked from the audience politely told a flirty female dancer that “I only kiss boys”. He and his would-be professional partner were both charmingly good-humoured, but it’s a reminder that this show packages sexuality in very narrow, familiar terms. The minute you see a bentwood chair, you know someone’s going to straddle it.
For all the bare chests and midriffs, the dancing is oddly impersonal. Couples wind around each other in regulation groping, the women carefully swinging their hair as they dip into deep backbends. The dancing draws on competitive ballroom style, which is extremely stylised and codified. Fingers splay carefully, hips thrust or boggle to strict beats. Given top billing, Rihanoff and Windsor have the most chance to show individuality. Their best moments have a sense of friendship, a touch of warmth amid the writhing.
The show is tightly organised and performed. Gilkison builds from slow numbers to fast, switching between ballroom and Latin, retro swing to updated rumbas. The music, played live, goes from Duke Ellington to Whitney Houston. Like the dancing, it’s performed flat out, with much more force than nuance.
Until 1 September. Box office 020 7370 5399.