Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor are familiar faces from television’s Strictly Come Dancing. As Strictly professionals they’ve trained celebrities including John Sergeant and Lisa Riley, but now they’re taking the spotlight as principal dancers with the West End dance show spectacular Burn The Floor.
Although “we really rely on the Strictly fan base to come and see the show and spread the word, there is so much more to this show. It’s not just a mixture of ballroom and latin, it’s more of a celebration of dance in any form,” Rihanoff tells me. Windsor explains that “Burn The Floor was actually created way before Strictly was even invented, so it was a little bit ahead of its time… I was with the show for many years before I joined Strictly, so it’s great to come back and star in the show where it all began for me.”
In contrast, Rihanoff has always dreamed of performing on the West End and “was a fan of the show for a long time. I never thought it was going to happen, ever, especially when I was a little girl born in a not very big city in Russia, very far away from anything central. The dream came true finally and I am just really enjoying this moment.” Rihanoff insists that Burn The Floor “isn’t your normal ballroom show. It’s very on edge, it’s very now. So it’s sort of street dancing mixed with jazz mixed with ballet mixed with Latin dancing. People are very surprised.” The show basically follows “the evolution of dance; where it began and where it is now. If I had to describe Burn The Floor in one word it would be ‘energy’, because it’s literally two hours of non-stop dancing. It’s very, very intense but that’s what’s brilliant about the show; people are always on their feet in the end because our finale is so energetic and the dances are so fun that people just can’t sit in their seats. They come up and dance with us and it’s great to see them just so happy.”
“On Strictly we don’t have enough time to show what we can potentially do, because we’re spending a lot of time with our celebrities. Here, you’ve got pure dancing where Robin and I are in every single dance pretty much,” Rihanoff explains. “I have a few dances with Robin and my favourite dance that we have is probably our very beautiful, lyrical rumba,” says Rianoff, whereas Windsor loves “the jive, our finale is packed, and the jive is the dance very much like me; it’s bubbly and full of energy”. Burn The Floor is directed and choreographed by Jason Gilkison, a former world champion ballroom and latin dancer, and also a guest choreographer on Strictly amongst other shows. “Jason is a genius,” enthuses Windsor, “his entire dance life has been made for this show, he’s put a lot of himself into the show. He’s adapted ballroom dancing in a slightly contemporary way for Burn The Floor.”
Burn The Floor also brings together a cast of dance champions from all over the world, “there’s something very special that happens when all of us get on stage together,” Windsor tells me. Rihanoff agrees, “it’s very inspirational to have all of them onstage at the same time because you them going for it 100 percent and you want to do the same”. As well as this, “you’ve got a lot of live people in front of you every night in Burn The Floor which is just fantastic because you really get to feel the appreciation for everything that you’re doing,” says Windsor when explaining the difference between performing in Strictly and Burn The Floor.
Windsor appreciates what shows like Strictly have done for the image of ballroom and Latin dancing: “it’s made ballroom dancing current and cool so the public are now a bit more understanding. I used to tell people that I was a dancer and now I tell them I’m a ballroom dancer; I never used to say that because I was a little bit embarrassed.” But Windsor never experienced the stigmas surrounding men training in dance as he was growing up, “I used to go into school every Monday with an orange face after a competition, and actually everyone was interested in what I was doing and took care of me. I was one of very few lucky ones.” He recommends that any young aspiring dancers should value “commitment. Never give up. There are days when you feel like nothing’s happening, or it’s not going well, or I’m not going to do anything with this, but if you stick with it, and you’re determined and focused, you’ll always get your end result.”
Similarly, Rihanoff acknowledges “it’s been said many ways by different people,” but advises, “believe in yourself, because it helped me out. There was so much going against my career but I never gave up because my passion for dancing was bigger than my fear of failing.” And that’s what’s got them to where they are today, starring in “the most unique dance show there is in the world,” according to Windsor.
When I ask them why people should come see the show, they essentially give the same answer so there must be truth behind what they say. “There’s a passion with all the dancers in the show that’s infectious,” says Windsor, and Rihanoff affirms, “Burn The Floor is not just a dance show, it’s an experience. You leave feeling exhilarated to just go and dance.”
Burn the Floor plays in London’s West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 1 September before going on a world tour. For tickets and more information, visit www.burnthefloor.com.
Image credit: Beytan Erkman