Review: Firedance – Reignite 2023
By Katie Bray
Firedance promised a night of performance, spectacle and foot-tapping fun, and boy did it deliver! The dance revuew Strictly Come Dancing professionals Gorka Márquez and Karen Hauer and a roster of talented dancers, musicians and singers. The show themes itself around Latin and contemporary dance styles, performing a tale of two rival dancers softening to each other at the Festival of Fire in a energetic and wordless reinvigoration of the Romeo and Juliet trope. It had dance-offs, romantic, and professional rivalry, and a spicy sprinkling of pyrotechnics to excite thrill seekers.
“Powerful, contrast, contemporary”- Gorka on Firedance.
Before entering, I wasn’t sure how much acting and theming would take place. Would it be a mishmash of performances or a theme interlocking between each song? By the end, I was amazed by the seamlessness of each performance, from the blending together of songs, to the way they would distract the audience with fire or spectacles whilst the other performers got dressed and prepared for the next segment.
I was amazed by how energetic they remained despite constantly flipping between costume changes and dancing numbers. Even the musicians joined in the acting, popping dance moves, exaggerating emotions, and competing in riff offs occasionally, between the trumpet, saxophonist and guitarist… boy, could he shred!
I particularly enjoyed the saxophonists’ attempt to mimic the guitarist’s lean back pose. Every musician was amazingly skilled, and whilst this was a show focused on dance, I couldn’t help but admire Headline (the band) and their involvement in the routine, especially since they too were creating an unmissable performance.
Perhaps this was the result of the talented cast and creatives, who have worked in various big productions, including: Get On the Floor, We Will Rock You, Rocketman, All Together Now, Aladdin, Chicago, Sister Act, Cirque du Soleil, Starlight Express, Footloose, and The Voice UK. The song choices were perfect, offering a mixture of classic and contemporary music that kept the audience bopping to the beat.
Sandy Grigelis stole the show with his versatile and gorgeous vocals and guitar playing. His ability to portray vulnerability, emotion or excitement in all the songs kept the songs fresh and engaging, especially in numbers like ‘Crazy/Rolling in the Deep’ and ‘What About Us?’. Paige Brooklyn Cook was also extremely talented but better suited the power ballads with her rich Christina Aguilera-like voice.
The show was certainly called “Fire” dance for a reason! At first, I was uncertain whether the show would literally involve flames, or meant it as a metaphor for love or passion, but my confusion was soon quenched when the show almost immediately pulled out all the stops with twirling batons of fire, a fan-like structure made of fire torches, stage pyrotechnics, a crown of fire, a spinning firework, and even a grinder used to create sparks.
Despite me having very little professional dance knowledge, I felt the performances were phenomenal, combining genres and styles, gorgeous percussive leg and dress whips, fluid and emotional arm and leg movements, passionate and dramatic story moments and more. For anyone who loves dance or Strictly shows, this is the perfect example of a well-structured and choreographed performance, with stellar exhibitions of skill from the legendary Gorka and Karen, and the equally impressive ensemble.
It was interesting how well they used the small space of the stage, with the back half lifted for the drums and musicians, and events with fire and hoops feeling almost dangerously close to the edge, heightening the tension. Indeed, I was captivated by Lex Milczarek’s skill and control as he manipulated the momentum and stood the body-sized hoop with ease, even when it started to drop like a toppling coin, or when he elegantly pounced across the stage with a torch.
Whilst the overall in-character performance was very serious, matching the strong passionate movements and music, the last few songs (a grand finale) were used to loosen up and involve the audience in the celebration. Starting with ‘What About Us?’, the performers gathered, waving to the audience and smiling before a more communal or folk-like dance that swept across the stage. This led to adorable moments where the entire audience clapped along and boogied with the stars, Sandy even jumping from the stage to interact with audience members and twirl a crowd member in one adorable moment.
Costumes were frequently moody, flowing and well-suited to the songs, although the colourful dresses used in one segment felt a little out of place, reflective of West Side Story but slightly obscure to the Fire Dancing Festival theme. Meanwhile, the lighting served to enhance the beats of music, scroll from stage to audience creating a sense of inclusion, or created decorative geometric patterns (which wouldn’t be out of place in a cathedral), on the floor. Additionally, I was often captivated by the blue light shining towards the dancers, as it cast shadows on the sides of the hall, making their moves feel ethereal and dreamy.
I would highly recommend Firedance for any fan of music, dancing, Strictly or pyrotechnic effects as they mastered each department with ease.
Firedance: Reignite 2023 tours the UK until April 1.