Review: Savion Glover

Savion Glover is more than a tap dancer. He is a musician. And his instruments are his two feet.

Savion Glover is a Tony award winning hoofer that has been in multiple shows and films. He not only performs and choreographs, he also has a school in New Jersey called the HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap.

Savion’s SoLo in TiMe tour stopped at The Sandler Center last Thursday night. The program gave no inclination as to what we were to expect from the show; there was no list of dance numbers or music titles. As the lights went down, I sat in my seat, wondering expectantly.

We could hear him before we could see him, the sound of his feet spreading through the theater. The curtain opened to reveal Savion alone on a wide T-shaped platform. The audience erupted in cheers and whistles as he tapped. Surrounding the platform were several speakers, microphones, and chairs, which gave a hint of what was to come.

Savion continued alone, using different areas of the platform and different parts of his feet (toes, heels, sides) to generate various percussive tones and intensities. I was immediately amazed by how much sound he was able to produce. Most of his movements were very subtle, the only arm gestures being those that happened as repercussions of the steps. I am still awed by the rapid beats and intricate rhythms his feet created; at one point it sounded like part of a drumline.

As the show progressed, other musicians took turns accompanying Savion: Francesco Beccaro, guitarist; Carmen Estevez, vocalist/percussionist; Gabriel Hermide, bass guitar; and Virginia native Mark Ingraham on the trumpet. The music was phenomenal; the majority was a Flamenco style, but there were also elements of jazz. Another hoofer, Marshall Davis, Jr., joined Savion on the platform for part of the show, their steps moving in and out of synchrony. The sounds of the instruments (feet included) merged wonderfully.

Though there were times that both Savion and Marshall threw in more dramatic movements (turns, swinging arms, higher kicks), it was still all about producing a certain sound, and not about achieving any specific visual result. The turns allowed them to drag their toe and create a long continuous sound; the higher kicks and swinging arms provided momentum for more powerful hits to the floor, increasing the volume. The dance was much more about the sound than it was about the dance.

SoLo in TiMe had a very relaxed, improvisational feel: Carmen was barefoot; the performers shook hands and congratulated each other between songs; and communicated with the sound technician in the wings as needed. At one point, Savion spoke to the audience, asking how we were feeling, if we were enjoying ourselves, etc. and then introduced the musicians. The show was truly a cross between a band concert and a studio jam session.

The most enthralling number of the show was the piece performed by Carmen and Savion. It was only her voice and his feet, no other instruments. It began as a slow, passionate song; her voice was both sharp and sorrowful. She sang in Spanish, and with tremendous emotion; his feet provided the rhythm. Again showing an example of improvisation and spontaneity, the tone of the song shifted about halfway through. The tempo increased, Carmen singing and clapping along to Savion’s lively steps.

The performance lasted for nearly two hours, with no more than a minute break between songs. And it seemed as though Savion could have danced all night; his intensity never waned. The show’s end actually caught me off guard. The final number brought all the musicians together, and was a jazzy rendition of “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music. The song went on for quite some time, and just as I was being lulled into its repetitious rhythm, Savion waved to us, and the curtain slowly closed while the musicians were still playing.

Savion is quoted in the program as saying, “What many people do not understand – is that tap is percussion. While there are traditional hoofer rhythms – each moment, each brush to the floor is an expressive poetry individual to each dancer’s internal voice.” Throughout his performance, sheer joy was evident in his uncalculated beaming smiles and great energy. As I said before, Savion Glover doesn’t just dance; he makes music.

This article was originally published on AltDaily in February of 2011.

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