Dance / “Walanbaa Yulu-Gi. Burn the Floor”. At The Canberra Theatre, August 9. Reviewed by SAMARA PURNELL.
FIRST Nations performer Mitch Tambo has shot to fame in recent years, perhaps most notably for his version of John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice” in Gamilaraay (Kamilaroi) language.
The dance production “Burn the Floor” is celebrating 25 years. This current production is a fresh concept that combines indigenous dancers and music, with a current crop of Latin stars and features iconic Australian music, including the singers and band in the spotlight.
Tambo opened the show with “Yaama” which included a form of Welcome to Country.
Tambo is a warm and personable host and performer who urged the audience to send love to anyone who needs healing and explains that the show is “two worlds colliding in the most beautiful way”.
That is an apt description. Tambo appears in an array of brightly coloured pleather, sparkly outfits and shoes throughout the show as he performs some of his songs.
The Australian landscape is the backdrop for the first half of the show, as indigenous dancers are joined by a troupe of Latin and ballroom dancers, some of whom are recognisable from performances on “Dancing with the Stars”.
The Latin dancers are costumed in earthy tones and perform several numbers barefoot.
Whilst this gives a contemporary feel and blends with the indigenous dance, without dance shoes the integral extreme point and elongated leg lines that give the Latin style of dance its distinctive look is lost. On occasion the costumes seem caught between the two styles of dance and culture without quite pulling off either.
“Native Tongue” was a beautiful number, with a rumba danced to a heavy beat, and “Highway to Hell” gets made-over into a swing dance.
Tyler Azzopardi sings the INXS classic “Never Tear Us Apart” with such haunting beauty, and sounds a distinct comparison to Dan Sultan.
Lily Cornish in a bridal nightgown, and Julian Caillon dance a tortured and passionate waltz, merged into a beautiful blend of Latin and ballroom styles.
The lovers are overseen by indigenous dancer Albert David in a poignant dance.
A pared-back rumba was accompanied by powerful harmonies from Azzopardi and Mark Stefanoff in “When the War is Over” and the lovers reprise their story in “Burn For You”, with a really pretty and moving rumba.
The second act opens with the dancers mingling with the audience, even taking selfies, before reaching the stage, set as a bar, where “Khe Sanh” is then belted out in Barnsey style by Stefanoff.
The men in cargo pants and girls in denim portrayed pre or post-war gatherings in the bar, with a poignant dance from parting lovers and carefree jive and quick-step dances from the ensemble. Crop jackets were donned by the girls, presumably to reference the paso doble. Clever lifts, dips and catches.
An interlude with two female dancers in disco dresses to “Chandelier” was a perplexing inclusion.
When Tambo reappears to perform “You’re The Voice” it really does give goosebumps, stirring the audience.
Sermsah Bin Saad danced, covered in beautiful artwork bodypaint. Perhaps the Latin dancers appearing at the end of the number in long white dresses represented cockatoos, given some of their movements, but it was a jarring inclusion.
The finale to “Absolutely Everybody” is a pure celebration of love and dance and oneness, and the feeling was contagious.
Who can be trusted?
In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.
If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.
Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.
Ian Meikle, editor