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'Hot tamale train' delivers again

Broadway ballroom performance brings former 'So You Think You Can Dance' contestant to Costa Mesa, which is her last stop for the tour.

May 19, 2011|By Candice Baker
(Courtesy Joan Marcus )

It's flashy, sensual … and fabulous.

For fans of reality shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing with the Stars," "Burn the Floor" is a perfect real-life night out.

A record-breaking Broadway hit — and the first ballroom dance musical ever to make it to the Great White Way — "Burn the Floor" showcases the world's top ballroom dancers in a highly athletic, frenetic spectacle.

Think mirror balls, strobe lights, smoke clouds and plenty of sultry expressions.

Top "Burn the Floor" star and original Broadway cast member Anya Garnis said the experience of watching live ballroom dance is "100 times better than watching TV shows, because the director of the show knows how to showcase dancers as well as get his choreography across. It's a beautiful, two-hour, nonstop dance show. It has really opened up our minds to what we can do, and how we can push ourselves," she said.

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Garnis said the show, which features live singers and musicians, also has inspired people to learn to dance — or perhaps to turn from hip-hop to ballroom.

"I think being in 'Burn the Floor' was the best decision that I've ever made, because I think there's nothing else like it out there," she said.

Garnis and her partner Pasha Kovalev first became household names on "So You Think You Can Dance." Latvian-born and Russian-trained, Garnis inspired the now familiar competitive dance term "hot tamale train," when her jive performance inspired dance veteran and show judge Mary Murphy to scream and say the hot tamale train had "just pulled up and let Anya off … — special delivery!"

Along with appearing on Broadway, Garnis also has taken "Burn the Floor" to the West End. But now she spends her days touring the country on the show's official national tour.

"The tour life is very different," Garnis said. "I know how, when people watch 'So You Think You Can Dance,' they say we can eat anything. But honestly, I do have to watch what I eat, and it does take a certain stamina [from] you. I drink lots of water, eat well and do all the necessary things. I can't give up coffee or chocolate, though. We do support ourselves with protein shakes."

Garnis said on a "good performance day" the cast won't be called in until 5 or 6 p.m., so she will "sleep in and find a really nice coffee shop or lunch place to go with some of the girls. To get some sun would be perfect before the show, and watch a couple movies before doing the show at night."

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