After a 2 year hiatus (thanks to the pandemic and various lockdowns), Burn the Floor finally arrived at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall this Valentine’s Day. An all-singing, all-dancing affair, this tour is led by the enigmatic Strictly Come Dancing star Kevin Clifton and the ever-talented Burn the Floor dance company. Although a somewhat low budget Strictly-esque performance, it’s guaranteed to be a feel-good, entertaining evening.
The show begins with a sense of excitement, anticipation and relief, all provided by frontman Kevin Clifton in his opening monologue. As a tour that has been postponed by 2 years, Clifton is thrilled that “theatre is finally back!”, with many of the original ticket holders sitting in the audience sharing his enthusiasm.
Although it takes a while to get going, cue a GCSE-drama type skit at the beginning which will definitely leave you a bit confused, the true value of this production is in the performance. From the first number, the skill and talent of all of the dancers and musicians involved in Burn the Floor is clear. The dances are well choreographed, and the songs well performed, in some instances even rivalling Dave Arch and his wonderful orchestra (10 points if you get that reference). Kevin Clifton even sings, actually pretty well, which was a welcome surprise.
The group performances certainly rival the Strictly professionals, particularly given the stamina that they are able to maintain between each number. The paso doble, one of Clifton’s specialities, showed incredible story-telling across three numbers with huge group dances and emotional duets.
At times, the small theatre stage felt a bit crowded, making it hard to appreciate all the dancers in the group numbers. This is why the contemporary dances, with their quiet emotion, stood out. The lifts were the most incredible I have ever seen – and that’s after not only 15 years of avid Strictly watching, but also attending Kevin’s previous tour.
The song selection and tracklist that this is all performed to is predictably cheesy, and at points slightly jarring. The setlist moves incoherently from a classical track mixed with an emo-rock number, to Queen to ‘Burlesque’ and then to Lady Gaga’s infamous song ‘Shallow’ from A Star is Born. Admittedly, it suits the audience and the production, but still, it might remind you of the DJ at your Aunt’s 50th birthday party.
The production value of the show is slightly jarred by Clifton’s unscripted, somewhat rambling monologues. It is of course nice that Clifton is so thrilled to be back dancing, but he does reiterate this every (what feels like) 5 minutes. Parts of Clifton’s ramblings also return to vague references to ‘Stace’ (Clifton’s girlfriend and 2018 Strictly partner, Stacey Dooley). Admittedly it was Valentine’s Day, but this did create an accidental comedic element when at each reference, the audience would turn and try and seek her out in the crowd, like some kind of mythical creature.
The venue was also only half-full, which made the panto-esque crowd engagement fall rather flat, as they couldn’t really get an atmosphere going. We were the youngest people in attendance by at least 20 years, however, so maybe some of Clifton’s older fans didn’t feel comfortable attending a show they had bought tickets to pre-Covid.
But those who were there had a great time, at the final number people were up dancing in their seats, including women who were old enough to be our grandmas. It was a genuinely heartwarming moment, and if this was most audience members’ first return to the theatre in almost two years, it was a joyous one.
Burn the Floor tours the UK until Sunday 27th February, so get your tickets quick!