Brief Encounter with ... Burn the Floor director Jason Gilkison
Date: 7 March 2013
Professional dancer Jason Gilkison is the director/choreographer of Burn the Floor, which recently returned to the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre
For those who aren't familiar with the show, how would you describe Burn the Floor? Thats an easy one - Burn The Floor is a dance show that totally reinvents your ideas about Ballroom dancing - it takes this beautiful art form and gives it a good kick left! The energy you feel from the performers is something you really have to experience first hand. This cast are definitely the rebels of ballroom industry - I love to watch them interpret such classic dances like the cha cha or the foxtrot in their own unique way.
It's one of a number of new dance shows - has Strictly been responsible for a boom? I think Strictly has been one of many factors - all over the world we have experienced a dance boom (especially in the last ten years) and the fact that it now has such a high television profile has been amazing for our dance industry. These days everyone knows what a 'paso doble' is, which still surprises me!
What are the challenges of presenting a dance show as opposed to a musical? The first hurdle with presenting something that is purely dance in content compared with a musical, is usually 'dance' doesn't often (in a musical) further the plot or extend the storyline, it more or less embellishes the current scene. This is very different in our case - our cast need to use movement as a language that can take people on a journey for one scene to another. What we have to do in Burn The Floor is keep an audience captivated without any dialogue for two hours. Believe me, our actions have to speak louder than any script could provide.
What is your process for planning a routine? I love to workshop things on the required subject as much as I can before I set things in stone - usually with some dancers who I feel really at home with or I can really express myself to. It usually starts with music, something I've heard that has inspired me, or sometimes a concept or situation that excites me. One thing that is essential to me is knowing the music I'm working on inside out - every drum beat, every lyric, every key change - I have to know it and see it in my head before I can express it to my dancers.
So how do you relate your vision to the dancers? Oh god, so many different ways. I must admit I like my dancers to become "method dancers"; I always create situations and stories so they can understand the emotion of what I'm trying to create.
Dance is a famously competitive world. Did you find it difficult to get to the top? I can't think of anything worth having or achieving NOT being difficult to get to the top. But the difficult times are what shapes you as a dancer, gives you soul and strength. All the times that seem tough are just building you as and artist. When I look back on my career I can see how the difficult stages were always reason I eventually had success of some type. You just can't grow otherwise.
What's your favourite routine in the show? I love watching dancers that leave everything of themselves on stage. This is what happens in Burn The Floor at the end of act one in the 40's scene - when I see them doing this part of the show I really feel like jumping up on stage with them.
If you could work with any dancer from history, who would it be? Cyd Charisse! Every girl I work with gets her shoved down her throat - my favourite female dancer of all time.
What have you got lined up next? Fortunately Burn The Floor continues to reinvent itself, so I am always kept busy looking for new interpretations of ballroom ideas. I am also working on a screenplay of a beautiful ballroom story (something which really excites me...)
Burn the Floor continues at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 1 September 2013. Come on our hosted Whatsonstage.com Outing on 20 March 2013 and get your top-price ticket, a FREE poster and access to our EXCLUSIVE post-show meet and greet - all for £28.50! Click here for info
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