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DANCE REVIEW

'FloorPlay' couples sizzling grooves, ballroom moves

Matadors arrive in "Fire in the Ballroom" during the second act of Burn the Floor's "FloorPlay."

The heat was on high at the Citi Wang Theatre last night. But it's the kind of heat that energizes you, and makes you feel as hot and sexy as the triumphantly talented dancers of "Burn the Floor's" newest extravaganza, "FloorPlay."

Fans of "Dancing With the Stars" will appreciate the dramatic playfulness among these performers, but these are not actors playing at dancing, they're dancers par excellence, and the precision with which they execute their moves is breathtaking all by itself. The Australian-based company features 24 dancers who groove through every possible combination of steps in salsa, samba, waltz, jitterbug , and tango, but they do it with such dramatic panache, the very idea of ballroom dancing takes on a whole new meaning.

The two-act evening lays out the history of the ballroom dance form, celebrating those early fox trot and Lindy Hop steps that bring two people together to move in ways that are completely captivating. The second act even includes a film with clips of ballroom dance displays from the '50s and '60s.

But even as the film offers a lovely point of reference, it's the live bodies moving on the stage that make the audience gasp. The couple demonstrating the elegantly fluid waltz moves glide across the floor barely suggesting they're touching the ground. With dark hair and pale skin, the woman in this couple looks as delicate as a porcelain doll.

Besides boasting incredible technique, these dancers infuse all of Jason Gilkison's choreography with personality and passion. "The Dance of Love," featuring a woman dancing while blindfolded, and was described as the dance of "lust and trust," explores the notion of partnership and the importance of timing in these intricate combinations.

In the second half, the dancers crank up the intensity , and the series of songs that make up the segment "Fire in the Ballroom" creates a story in a nightclub with all the characters and story lines that entails. Although we know the tango is coming, Gilkison opens up those tightly sexy moves so that they transform the dance into an inviting embrace. When the matadors arrive, swirling capes in tow, the effect is disarming and impressive. As the second act heats up, the dancing of larger and larger combinations of the company becomes fierce, even frenetic, but always so perfectly synchronized it's astonishing.

The dancers are accompanied mostly by taped music, augmented by two dueling percussionists (Alex Leon Jr. and Henry Soriano ) who add to the heat. Two vocalists, Kieron Kulik (who also provides some occasional narration) and Rebecca Verrier also change the focus with their singing. Verrier turns especially soulful with a sexy version of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" that puts her right in the midst of the dancing. The choice of music is eclectic, ranging from "Sing , Sing , Sing" and "It Don't Mean a Thing," to "O Fortuna" and a version of "Proud Mary" that would make Ike and Tina Turner proud.

The musical mix, combined with the vibrantly colored (and revealing) costumes, make "FloorPlay" a wonderfully dramatic evening. Although the show opens with "You Make Me feel Like Dancing," that's certainly the way the audience feels on the way out of the theater.

'Related'

FloorPlay

Presented by Burn the Floor

At: the Citi Performing Arts Center, Wang Theatre, through tomorrow

Tickets: $25-$65 . 800-447-7400 , citicenter.org

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