Legendary Tap Master Savion Glover
Wows Providence, Rhode Island!
By Brittany Lombardi
Unlike the frozen trees, frost bitten plants and still ponds, the dance communities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have been more alive than ever! There have been several workshops, launches of new dance companies and performances to kick off 2014, including Savion Glover’s STePz at The Vets in Providence, Rhode Island.
Last Friday evening, I had the pleasure of watching the phenomenally talented tap master and his four dancers: Marshall Davis Jr., Robyn Watson, Ayodele Casel, and Sarah Savelli make music with their feet in ways I could never imagine! The evening began with a solemn yet playful introductory piece inspired by the smooth soothing jazz melodies of Miles Davis. Though most of the music involved piano and small sections of percussion and wind instrumentals, Savion’s choreography managed to capture every moment in the music with sounds that matched the music identically. At first, I could not help but scream like a little schoolgirl when Mr. Glover entered the stage for the first time; however, as the music played and his feet moved, I became enticed by the contrast of the sounds of the tap shoes and the music becoming one entity.
Nothing interrupts a performance more than complicated lighting, especially for tap dancing. Tap is an exploration of sound, integrating classical movements such as time steps, rudiments and classic soft shoe ‘box’ steps with playful and daring new school rhythms. Mr. Glover’s style, a combination of these elements and hoofing, brought forth a playful, easy-going energy that could not be overshadowed. With each rotation of the music, the lighting would change to match the mood of the music or theme of a piece. As soon as a fiery tango song emerged from the speakers for Flamenco Sketches, the stage did not become enveloped in flashes of colored light. Instead, the background turned blue while center stage remained neutral, focusing on the dancers and their sounds. Had Savion decided to spotlight each couple separately, the audience would be more fixated on following the dancers, rather than capturing the essence of the music and the sounds of their feet.
Usually tap is perceived as a ‘happy’ or ‘jolly’ genre of dance in the movies, such as in Happy Feet, the story of a cuddly penguin who brought a flock of fellow penguins together through his tap dancing. (Interestingly, Savion Glover did the sounds for that movie). On the contrary, when Mr. Glover performed a solo entitled Gregory Mode, a tribute to his good friend, the legendary Gregory Hines, there was not a dry eye in the entire theatre.
Taking a break from his energetic mind boggling aesthetic, Savion took a moment to ‘get back to the basics’ as he tapped to "Mr. Bojangles," the theme song to him and Hines ’movie, Bojangles, an autobiographical film about Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson. Serving as Savion’s mentor up until his death in 2003, Gregory Hines captured the hearts of America by celebrating the beauty and entertainment value of classical tap dancing. Though this particular piece must have been an emotional challenge for Mr. Glover to perform, he transformed into Gregory Hines before our eyes. As he glided, hardly picking up his feet, Savion casually grape-vined and shuffled on a dimly lit stage with a big grin on his face.
He knew he had made his mentor proud that evening.
Photo Credit of Dancers: Elijah Paul