Classical Savion delight of dexterity and rhythm

  • Jul 13, 2009
From The Register-Guard Savion Glover, tap-dancer extraordinaire, and his extraordinary musicians brought the Silva Hall audience to their feet Friday night at the end of his two-hour “Classical Savion” solo tap concert. As the late great Gregory Hines once said, “(Glover) is the greatest tap-dancer to ever lace up a pair of tap shoes.” Glover, 35, has come a long way from beating on pots and pans in his mother’s New Jersey kitchen. At 4 he took drum lessons. At 7 he began tap lessons at the Broadway Dance Center in New York. At 12 he appeared on Broadway in “The Tap Dance Kid,” proving himself a prodigy. His banner year was 1996. He received a Tony Award for “Bring In ’Da Noise, Bring In ’Da Funk,” received an NEA grant, and was the youngest recipient of the Dance Magazine award. His rhythmic dexterity reveals a virtuosity and expressiveness that makes tap a vital contemporary dance form — not a relic of black-and-white movie musicals. Glover has been quoted as seeing tap as “raw, real rhythm … Funk has brought a new concept to the world of tap. There is a rhythmic intensity at the roots of the form. It is the basics, but not like tap-dance class … more the essence of the basics, and it can be done to any music.” Glover proves that with his “Classical Savion.” Dancing to traditional Vivaldi, Dvorak, Bach, Shostakovich, Bartok and Mendelssohn, he taps out mind- bending polyrhythms with a dexterity that shows him as a percussionist as well as a dancer. Directing the chamber ensemble of eight string musicians with his feet and his eyes, he moves with, against, and in between the rhythms of the composer. Sometimes his feet seem to be barely moving and then he will stomp or jump. He finds the unique groove in every piece, putting percussion in concertos, suites and quartets that usually do not have an obvious beat. Who else but “the man” would tap dance to Vivaldi’s “Summer Concerto No. 2”, Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3” or Mendelssohn’s “Octet for Strings Op. 20”? Not to mention Shostakovich’s “String Quartet No. 8” or Bartok’s “Romanian Folk Dances.” In Dvorak’s String Quartet, he brought some humor by briefly riding a pony and alluding to jumping rope. Whether on his toes, sliding or tapping on the sides of his shoes, this physical and artistic dynamo is kinetic to the core. “His body lurches and lunges. He shoots across the stage and whips into off-kilter balances propelled by explosive bursts of sound from his taps,” says George Wolfe, producer of “Bring In ’Da Noise, Bring In ’Da Funk.” A surprise jazz variation occurred in Bach’s “Badinerie.” Andy McCloud on bass, Brian Grice on drums and Tommy James on piano accompanied Patience Higgins’ fabulous flute variation. And Glover glided and tapped around and in between the notes. Just before the last number, Glover introduced each musician, who then improvised on their respective instruments. Violins, violas and cellos wailed as great as any sax or trumpet jazz player. Bow fibers were flying and I wondered how many strings had to be replaced in this two-hour concert. An original piece, “Stars and Stripes Forever 4 Now,” ended the show as Glover set the beat. Then, the four jazz musicians took off. At one point the strains of Souza’s march came through on Higgins’ soprano sax to the delight of the audience, but it was soon overcome by the dizzying runs of the piano and sax and the percussion of the bass, drums and Savion’s feet.