Issued By: Staff writer Joan Hendricks\Image credits: Danie Coetzee
We recently had the pleasure of watching the “Burn the Floor – The Rebel Tour” dancers in action on a hot stage at the Baxter when they performed during opening night earlier this month.
After an electrifying few nights, enthralling Cape Town audiences, the Burn the Floor dancers flew to Johannesburg and is currently performing at the Emperor’s Palace.
But we caught up with Peta Roby, choreographer of Burn the Floor, before they left Cape Town and asked her to tell us more about how the show got started, what makes it such an unique experience and what is next for the group.
Please tell us more about the show’s origins. What was the inspiration behind it?
Burn the Floor’s origins… it was Elton John’s 50th birthday, that Harley Medcalf, Elton’s Australian promoter attended. Harley witnessed a group of competitive ballroom dancers that Elton’s manager had arranged to be part of the night’s entertainment for Elton. The performance completely stopped the room – I do not think anyone had realized that ballroom dancing could be a form of entertainment rather than a pastime.
What makes it such a unique experience?
I think it is about two people dancing ‘for one another’. People see dance, but as individuals, and the very special thing in ballroom dancing is that two people dance as one. In today’s society of social media, it is refreshing to see two people have a connection, and I think unbeknown to the voyeuristic experience of actually watching two people dancing together, this element is so lacking in today’s environment that it has such instant appeal. Whether it is a romantic waltz or a fast percussive samba, it excites a very human, emotional energy… something we all need.
What do you love most about the Cape Town audiences?
Cape Town audiences are not scared to get involved with the show, they are a vibrant, vocal audience. The diversity of the audience also conjures different responses in different parts of the show, which energizes the dancers… it is a great reciprocal, exciting energy in the theatre. It is definitely a good night out for everybody, young, old, male, female.
Why did you decide to visit South Africa?
It is our fourth visit to South Africa. It is a cast favourite destination. South Africa always offers wonderful audiences, there is a wonderful dance culture amongst the South African people. Africa is the roots of our Latin American music, so this very natural attraction is very present. There is something very joyful about the South African people that is infectious. On days off we also love to explore your beautiful and very unique country.
What is next for you after the tour ends?
After Cape Town, we move to Johannesburg to open in the Emperor Casino, followed by another 3 weeks at Sibaya Casino in Durban. We will then be back in the UK to prepare for the next leg of our touring.
If there is one thing you’d like the audience to take with them after watching the show, what would that be?
A sense of JOY.
What’s your favourite performance?
For South Africa, we recorded a very special song, Pata Pata, which I know is special to the South African people, and a song in the Latin American world we have grown up with. For us, we perform cha-cha to this song. We had great pleasure in studying the history of this song and learning some traditional choreography. We have added additional percussion to enhance some of the rhythms in it which has been a lot of fun. For me personally, I have danced to this song over the last 40 years, so it was a very special moment to be able to make this a part of “Burn the Floor”
Any encouraging words to aspiring young dancers?
Dance in whatever form you do it in is about the ‘music’. Without music, there would be NO dance. The exciting thing about music is experimenting with the ‘colour’ that lies between the beats… this is the creative part of dance that allows us all to discover and express, sometimes lose ourselves in what we feel the music is telling us… this is the JOY of dance, and something everyone should allow themselves to experience. I spend my time working with the “Burn the Floor” dancers to discover this. It is a big part of our creative process, and an exhilarating experience to allow us to create stories within the choreography we perform. It is such a fulfilling artistic process to develop from this perspective as dance should never be ‘Just Steps’.
The show is still on in Johannesburg at Emperor’s Palace until 8 September and from 12 – 29 September at Sibaya Casino in Durban. Tickets can be bought here.