Tripping the light fantastic: An interview with Burn the Floor's Gary Wright
 

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posted Friday, September 3, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 36

Tripping the light fantastic: An interview with Burn the Floor's Gary Wright
by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Burn The Floor September 14-19 Paramount Theatre

For anyone who ever escaped watching Strictly Ballroom or So You Think You Can Dance, the Paramount Theatre has an answer: the stage production of Burn The Floor. This spectacular dance presentation has resurrected the ballroom style of dance competition that has not been seen in the United States since the 1920s. With a mixture of waltzes, foxtrots, and tangos, this hot and sensual show focuses on the Latin American dance and the passion for the art of dance. The cast also currently includes Anya Garnis, Pasha Kovalev, Ashleigh and Ryan DiLello - finalists in the So You Think You Can Dance program. In preparation for this "demonstración caliente," the SGN interviewed another principal dancer, Gary Wright.

Eric Andrews-Katz: What started your interest in dancing?

Gary Wright: Basically, I started dancing when I was 10 years old. I was just at that age when I wanted to find something, and my mom worked at a dance school. I went to the class one Saturday and started dancing. I've never stopped.

Andrews-Katz: What different types of dance have you studied?

Wright: I've done all sorts, but my main type is ballroom - Latin American. I've studied ballet, jazz, and all the normal types as well. Latin American type is described as progressive ballroom dancing. Ballroom was once perceived as being prissy and formally elegant, but it's more edgy and now it appeals to a younger audience as well. It's become sexier.

Andrews-Katz: How old were you when you entered your first dance competition?

Wright: I was 10 years old. It was after only five days of private lessons, and I won! I was impressed by what I did and continued with it. I've been dancing ever since and competing all over the world.

Andrews-Katz: Most people know ballroom dancing from the film Strictly Ballroom. How does the film compare to real competitions?

Wright: To me, the film is actually very cheesy. With some of its elements, it's true; there are pushy dance partners and mothers do interfere. (My parents never did.) It's kind of funny for me to watch. It's a bit of a ballroom skit that exaggerates everything. Real competitions are totally different.

Andrews-Katz: Do you have a dance type specialty?

Wright: Ballroom and Latin American. My favorite is the Latin American. You get more choices in ways to express yourself. When you dance with partners, you dance within a hold. With Latin American, I get to experiment more; it's more dancing from where the heart is. Although ballroom is amazing to watch, it's breathtaking.

Andrews-Katz: How did you come to tour with Burn the Floor?

Wright: I've done a lot of other shows before Burn. I've already been on the West End in London twice. I've always heard the show was a success and when it was on Broadway they were looking for another cast to go to China. I was in that new cast. After China, they sent me back to the Broadway cast, and I've been with them ever since - just over a year. I've seen amazing places and work with an amazing company. It's nice to work with people you get along with. In Burn, there's no animosity amongst ourselves and we all go on stage, not to compete, but to make it better for the audience.

Andrews-Katz: About how many dancers are in Burn?

Wright: At the moment we have 14 dancers, two singers, and two percussionists.

Andrews-Katz: Which types of dances does Burn focus on and include?

Wright: The show includes Latin American, ballroom, salsa, swinger numbers with swing jazz, and a couple that recently joined does contemporary ballet, but mixes in Latin styles for a contemporary feel.

Andrews-Katz: Can you explain the difference of the American style of dance versus international style?

Wright: I would say it's kind of all the same, but with Latin American ballroom dancing, it is done more competitively and taught widely. Some of the best teachers are in London. People travel from all over the world to London to learn, and then they bring it back to their native countries and put their own spin on it. Latin American dancing is constantly changing.

Andrews-Katz: Is there a story that connects the dances in Burn, or is the show more of a dance revue?

Wright: It's a special show in its own right. A lot of shows have an actual storyline from a script. We don't. But from beginning to the end, we take you on a journey of Latin American and ballroom dancing. We try to reinvent Latin American ballroom by turning it upside-down and making it edgy. The show offers a variety of dancers so that the audience can identify with whomever and follow them throughout the show. This also allows a different perspective viewing at different times, depending on how the individual in the audience feels while they are watching. They may identify with a different set of dancers next time. Basically, Burn the Floor is a feel-good show.

Burn the Floor started off as part of a set of party entertainments for the 50th birthday celebration of Sir Elton John. The popularity of the presentation, combined with the explosion of television shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, sparked the demand to expand this dance section to a full-fledged musical piece.



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