A Dance Extravaganza.
This is a disc of a live performance of Burn the Floor, a spectacle of dance using an eclectic mix of ballroom, modern, jazz, lindy hop, jitterbug, and Latin dancing. 46 dancers from 14 countries, all top competition couples, spent 9 months rehearsing for a show that is lively, energetic, even frantic, and does not stop during the 97 minute performance. Universal does the performance justice, especially in the audio department with a beautiful DTS track. Alas, and unusual for Universal, the transfer is not anamorphic.
I'm not much of a dancer. I'm not a huge fan of production dance numbers in musical film either. So it's fair to say that this disc isn't one targeted toward me as an audience. Yet I definitely enjoyed the performance; at least most of it. One man said of this show "it is the theatrical version of Viagra" and I could see his point. There are a lot of hot looking dancers (of both sexes, for those interested) in varying shades of undress in this show. Lavish costumes that would be at home in any Broadway musical get stripped down to bathing suit sized ones in the middle of numbers. What the costumes don't cover is often as important as what they do. Combine this with the passion of these dancers, and the romance of the dances and music, and I'd call it a fair substitute for a chemical aphrodisiac.
Apparently this show has been getting rave reviews for live performances and filled venues for awhile now. Not being a real follower of the dance scene, it's not surprising that I'd never heard of it. But these folks are serious about making ballroom dance, with many modern influences and additions, the new dance craze of the 21st century. In fact only a couple numbers were what I'd call "classic" ballroom dance that I would recognize. I welcome the new look and moves; this brought a lot of excitement to dances thought pretty stale now such as the waltz. But the more modern dance numbers, along with the '40s style dancing that make up much of the rest of the show were even better. The show moves from individual couples to whole large productions of 46 dancers at the blink of an eye, in a fury of motion that defies you being able to really see everything.
As you would expect, the dancing was first rate; on a par with anything you've seen anywhere. I saw throws and moves I've never seen before, and positively the fastest I've ever seen a girl being twirled. The choreography was equally good, I never saw a misplaced step anywhere. The stage was quite large and the dancers made use of every inch of it.
The production values were extremely high as well. The set was striking, and the costumes even more so. Bright colors of every hue, and dresses that even had their own lighting swirled and moved in constant motion. Lavish headdresses, skirts, suits, and hats gave way to leather and chains depending on the music. A fair amount of authentic looking '40s garb accompanied their numbers, and the sheer number of costume changes had to be daunting. There were up to 10 costume and makeup changes per dancer during the show, some in mid number. Spectacle is the best word to describe the show; as it would enthuse the most jaded sybarite. The styles of music change from ballroom to industrial, from Big Band to Latin, with a little disco and straight classical as well. All were well performed in 5.1 sound, surrounding the listener.
As I said, Universal did an astounding DTS soundtrack. The music was extremely detailed and had a great deal of punch. The dynamic range was high, and also reached down into great subwoofer territory. A 76 piece orchestra performed all the music.
The colors and movement were well recorded with the video transfer. A minimum of motion artifacts were found despite all the opportunities for such to crop up. Only some edge enhancement issues and some ringing marred what is still one of the better non-anamorphic transfers I've seen; done in 1.77:1 letterbox. That aspect ratio means the black bars on top and bottom of a standard television are small, and less likely to be noticed by those still not accustomed to it.
A 30 minute "making of" documentary chronicled the whole process of getting this production done, from the planning stages to right after opening night. Interviews with the dancers and all involved in the production such as the costume designer had their say as well. Crew information (it says "cast and crew" but none of the dancers had an entry), short production notes, and a trailer for the DVD round out the extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One big lack in the disc is the transfer. Widescreen owners will be greatly saddened that this isn't anamorphic. It is surprising that Universal, who have made anamorphic pretty much standard, didn't go to that trouble for a show and disc done in the year 2000. As I said, it's still pretty good, though not as well done as The Abyss.
While this is a very good dance production (I think it compares favorably to Riverdance) it's still a long dance production, and nothing else. I found my interest flagging at times during the performance as there was only so many times they could swirl and turn and step across the floor that I really wanted to see. I'm sure dance fans will feel differently. There was one number I particularly did not like; when several of the men started dancing with wheeled mannequins with no heads and one arm. I thought it looked plain silly. Some of the classic ballroom stuff reminded me of large musical production numbers from classic film, which as I said I'm not a big fan of. I guess I liked the more modern stuff more; though the jitterbugging was equally interesting. To each his own of course.
Lastly, my biggest complaint: the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sounded flat and uninvolving compared to the DTS one. This is one medium where DTS really shows its chops: music. Most of the time in film soundtracks I find the difference between DD and DTS to be minimal; and if I had to choose between DTS or DD with extras I take the Dolby Digital. But this was either a poor DD track or a great DTS track because the difference was huge. Maybe a little of both, because I wasn't enthused about the soundtrack until I switched to DTS about the third number. Unfortunately you cannot change this on the fly but have to go to the menu. I did listen to several numbers with both tracks to make comparison, and there was no comparison.
If you are a dance fan, then this is probably a must-buy. If you liked Riverdance then you'll almost certainly like this. But I have to qualify it and say if you have a widescreen set or you don't yet have DTS capability then you might want a rental first. I wasn't able to determine how well the picture looks on a really big widescreen, and you might not be as enthusiastic as I am with only the Dolby Digital track to listen to.
The makers and especially the dancers are commended on a fine effort, and all have my respect. Universal is acquitted, though reminded that we really want anamorphic transfers across the board. The Dolby Digital track could have used some more work to make it at least comparable to the wonderful DTS one. A very small slap on the wrist for that infraction.
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Scales of Justice
• "Making Of" Documentary
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