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If it wasn’t for Elton John, dancers Kym Johnson and Trent Whiddon might still be in Australia participating in various dance competitions. Instead, they are touring the world in the internationally-acclaimed hit, “Burn the Floor.”
The sultry two-hour dance extravaganza that returns to Detroit’s Fabulous Fox Theatre March 28 was conceived by producer Harley Medcalf who attended Elton John’s 50th Birthday bash in October 1998 where international Ballroom dancers wowed the guests. Inspired by what he saw, Medcalf traveled the world in search of the best dancers, and in 1999 an exuberant production that stars championship dance couples from more than a dozen countries made its debut.
Appearing in the show since its inception, Johnson – a gorgeous woman with a radiant smile – started dancing at the tender age of 3 and hasn’t stopped since.
“I started with ballet, jazz and tap,” Johnson recently told BTL. “I was 14 when I started Ballroom. My brother wanted to learn Ballroom so he could meet some girls, so I used to go with my mom to pick him up and thought that I could do that, too.”
Johnson won many Ballroom titles, and represented Australia in World Championships.
At the age of 18, Johnson moved to England where she studied dance for four years. It was also where her connection to theater was rekindled.
“I love theater and going to the theater, and I always regretted stopping the other forms of dance, so when the opportunity to join ‘Burn the Floor’ came along, it gave me the opportunity to be on stage and performing, instead of just competing. Something was lacking for me just competing. I wasn’t satisfied at all, so this was perfect.”
For Whiddon – a young blonde bombshell of a very masculine kind – it was a school production of the musical “Grease” that whet his appetite for dance and theater.
“I saw the show and told my mum that that’s what I’m interested in, so she got me into beginner’s classes,” Whiddon recalled. “So when I hit about 14 or 15 I started to grow up – I was sort of a chubby kid when I was younger – and I realized that I wasn’t so bad, so I got serious.”
Like his current dance partner, Whiddon entered the dance competition scene where he became one of Australia’s top juvenile, junior and youth competitors. It was there only a year ago that he was spotted by “Burn the Floor’s” director who invited him to join the cast.
Originally, Johnson and Whiddon were partnered with other dancers, but as luck would have it, both became partner-less just before a major tour of Japan.
“We got thrown together in a half-minute, and it’s not easy getting together when you haven’t danced with each other before,” Johnson laughed. “We had maybe two weeks to get it together which was a challenge, but it went well. You sort of connect with someone or you don’t, but we had a good connection right away.”
Both are glad to be away from the competition scene.
“It’s a bit of a relief to find something you can enjoy so much and not have as much stress,” Whiddon said. “It’s truly about dancing your best and having fun without competing against someone else.”
Johnson and Whiddon are also in agreement about one other thing: “Burn the Floor” has universal appeal.
“We always get standing ovations,” Johnson laughed. “There’s so much energy on stage with 32 dancers from 10 different countries. Little kids to grandparents love the show.
In particular, Johnson pointed out the younger generation seems to be most surprised by the show.
“They have this concept of Ballroom from their parents or grandparents, and they are shocked by how hot it is. They want to immediately go learn it and do it!”
“It’s very uplifting,” Whiddon concluded. “It leaves you happy!”
Burn the Floor Championship dance couples from 15 different countries present a culture clash between the elegant sophistication of ballroom dancing and sweaty sensuality of rock ‘n’ roll. Presented at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Detroit, March 28 – 30. Tickets: $15 – $60. (313) 471-6611. http://www.olympiaentertainment.com