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Theater review: 'Burn the Floor'

Giselle Peacock and Kevin Clifton in "Burn the

Giselle Peacock and Kevin Clifton in "Burn the Floor," dance extravaganza on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St. (Photo by Ari Mintz / July 24, 2009) Credit: Ari Mintz

"Burn the Floor," the late-summer touring attraction at the Longacre Theatre, is populated with international ballroom champions, with bios that mention stints in many of the global versions of the stupendously popular shows on reality TV.

The most famous of the 20-member ensemble are Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff, larger-than-life artists from "Dancing With the Stars." They will be with the show only until Aug. 16, but the attractive, hardworking company is kept busy enough without them.

Either way, this is a glorified floor show at Broadway prices. The program, first created for Elton John's 50th birthday celebration in 1997, has a tacky disco ball that descends periodically from the ceiling, two sprawling drum sets (with live drummers) on a platform above a virtually bare stage, two singers with hand mics, one saxophone player, one violinist and what sounds like a whole lot of synthesizer.

On the dance TV shows, tension is whipped up with competitions. In nightclubs, the audience is softened up with alcohol. On stage, director/choreographer Jason Gilkison keeps things moving with quick changes of costumes appropriate to the cha-cha, swing, rumba, samba, paso doble, tango and, as a kind of connecting image, Viennese waltz.

The women tend to have beautiful taffy torsos, extended limbs and backless dresses that linger lovingly over plenty of butt cleavage. Long hair and fringe go whipping around with the snap of push-pull partnering and the contrary-motion swivels of direction.

The problem is that, for all Gilkison's attempts to superimpose coherence and variety, he has not been able to develop an internal logic or interesting dance ideas from this limited and repetitious vocabulary. The steps and rhythms may be complex, but the emotions are generalized. Love is combat. Love is mean sex. I need you, go away. Don't leave. He hangs on her. She hangs on him. Kitsch is romance. Attitude will prevail.

When the dance cannot turn a full evening into more than a series of strenuous effects, Gilkison switches the lights from green to purple. When all else fails, we get the fog machine.

Where: Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St., Manhattan

Tickets: $59.50-$111.50; 212-239-6200; telecharge.com

Bottom line: Glorified floor show at Broadway prices

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