Big, bold ballroom-dance anthologies have been around for several decades — Luis Bravo’s Forever Tango has crisscrossed the world off and on since a multi-year San Francisco run in the ‘90s — but the form has been kicked into high gear by the wildly popular TV competitions Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance in the last decade.

One of the more recent entries into this dance derby is Burn the Floor, a glitzy, fast-paced performance of the 10 standard ballroom dances used in what is known as the “international style.” Opening on Broadway in 2009, the show is now on an extended world tour and plays the Kauffman Center May 18-20.

Recently, we were able to speak with openly gay ballroom dancer Gary Wright, originally from Liverpool, England, who is on tour with the show. When asked about his dance career, which began at the age of 10, Wright said, “It was actually quite strange how I got into it.”

“At the time, there was a local dance school just by where I lived ... and my mom actually worked at the dance school and I was always kind of wanting to do something else. ... So she took me along to dance school and the first class that I actually went to, I wasn’t quite sure of it, I was kind of the only guy that was there.”

After this uncertain start, Wright decided to go back to the class one last time and was surprised when his dance teacher approached his mother and offered to give him private lessons, seeing what she called Wright’s natural talent for the genre.

“And from there I’ve never really looked back,” Wright said.

Later, he said, “My first professional gig was really when I was a teenager. I started to do a show in England which was called Simply Ballroom, and that toured also in the U.S. with Debbie Reynolds.”

Of his current show, he said, “I always knew about Burn the Floor because, for me, [it’s> like the elite show for ballroom and Latin dancers, and my next mission from then was to get on to Burn the Floor. And then I got asked to do the tour in China ... and then they asked me to go straight to Broadway to join the main cast, and that was quite an amazing experience.”

When asked what the future may hold for him beyond his performing years, Wright says, “I would maybe look forward to passing on my knowledge and my art to other people, and so I’d quite like to become a teacher or a choreographer. ... There’s so many different opportunities and paths I can kind of see ahead, and I’m one of those people, as well, that you never quite know what the future holds — you just don’t know.”

Burn the Floor plays at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts the weekend of May 18-20. For tickets and more information, visit kauffmancenter.org or call 816-994-7222. "

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