Burn the Floor, the all-dance show that’s been on tour since 1999, is now at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre until June 30. Featuring ten pairs of championship dancers from around the world jiving, cha chaing, waltzing and everything in between through 24 numbers over two acts, accompanied by two vocalists and a live band, it’s nonstop dance-tastic.
What’s it like to watch? Just imagine the big dance numbers from your favourite musicals one after another, and that begins to give you an idea. The starring pair are, of course, Robin Windsor and Kristina Rihanoff, best-known for being the hard-working partners to various celebrities on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing. They both took a few minutes out of their very busy schedules to talk to Liz Granirer about the experience of being in the show…
“I don’t think many people know what they’re going to see until they see the it,” says Windsor. “I first joined Burn the Floor in 2002 and left it in 2010, so I’ve spent most of my adult life with it. It’s like my second family, so to be invited back to star in it in the West End, where it all began for me, is pretty amazing.
“This time around, there are a few different faces, but there’s still the same Burn the Floor family that I left three years ago. To be able to come back and work with them is amazing, because for me, they’re the hardest working bunch of dancers in the entire world. I’ve never met anybody else with so much passion and enthusiasm for the job they do.
“It doesn’t matter how tired you are or how you feel on the day, the moment that curtain goes up there’s something that comes over your body that tells you to perform. Of course, you need to rest and you need to eat well, and you need to look after yourself, but the moment that curtain goes up, something very special happens.
“I try to sleep in as late as possible, because we all need our sleep. Then I’m up and at the gym before I’m back into the theatre, and we’re stretching and warming up, ready for the night’s performance.
“My favourite dance in the show is the paso doble that we do in Act II. Both myself and Kristina absolutely love performing that number. It’s not normally my favourite style of dance – jive’s usually my favourite, because I’m full of energy and so is the jive – but there’s something really special about this particular routine.
“In the opening and closing number, I wear the same costume: a big leather jacket, jeans and big boots. What’s nice is that, because it isn’t your traditional ballroom-dancing costume, it’s a way of thinking outside the box and coming up with something new. It’s a way of making ballroom dancing more current. I love being able to dance in something that just seems pretty cool.
“Both myself and Kristina are only going to be in the show until the end of June, then we hopefully will be back on Strictly in the autumn and we’ll take a couple of weeks off before all that begins again.
“I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life. I’ve had dreams – to perform on Broadway, to perform in the West End, to be on a TV show, to headline a show in the West End – so I’m a bit stuck now for my next one, except perhaps having my own show one day.
“The only free time I have I spend in the gym – it’s my second home. I use it as a release mechanism, where I let out all the stress that’s built up over the week. I also love going out to dinner with my friends and family. I don’t get to see them half as much as I’d like to.”
“The best thing about being in the show is the thrill of dancing in front of a live audience,” says Rihanoff. “When you’re on Strictly, the studio is tiny. You get the vibe obviously, you’re excited to perform, but with the theatre it’s totally different. With every day it’s a different audience and there is something incredible about feeling that rapport when they respond to your dancing and you take them on a journey with you. So it’s been fantastic, and every day it’s a different and new experience, and I’m really, really happy I got to do it. It’s a one of a kind opportunity to get to be in the West End.
“You have to rest loads so that when you go to the show you give your best every day. It’s very high energy and it’s physically really hard. We did ten hours a day during the two weeks of rehearsals prior to the show. That time was very intense and so crazy. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my lord, how am I going to get through it?’ It obviously gets easier, little by little. It’s like anything – your body gets used to it. You just have to look after yourself, eat really well, sleep enough, take your supplements and be good to yourself.
“Latin is my favourite dance style. I do ballroom as well, but Latin is the one I love the most. In Burn the Floor, I love all of the dances, but I think I love the paso doble the most. It’s the Spanish-influenced dance and there’s something special in it for me. – that fight with your partner, but yet you’re kind of submissive… It’s a very powerful dance, which I love.
“All the costumes in the show are lovely, very theatrical. I love the very first outfit I wear. It’s black, it’s a little bit rock, with a little bit of tutu, but also chains on my neck and I’m dancing in boots. It’s a little bit of a modern twist on the Latin dancing and I really enjoy that.
“Hopefully we’re doing Strictly next. We’ll all know in June. In July I have a few shows with Robin and also a Strictly cruise, so there’s lots of things happening.
“As for the future, any dancer will tell you about the dream of their own show, and Robin and I are very much that way. We want to have our own theatre show and hopefully that’s going to happen for us.”