Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tapping into the Genius of Savion Glover -- Chicago Dance Review

Dance Review

Savion Glover's STePz
Harris Theater, Chicago
January 24, 2014

As oft shared on these pages, I have been fortunate to have seen some of the greatest performers of our time--and perhaps even all-time--in a variety of idioms.

From musicians and singers in many genres, to some of the most acclaimed actors, actresses & comedians, to superstar athletes in several fields, to Cirque du Soleil acrobats and others with rare & amazing talents, I have witnessed--live and in person--virtuosity in myriad forms.

Yet while I reserve the right to be contradictorily hyperbolic as the inspiration arises, there has been no one as jaw-dropping, mind-blowingly impressive at his or her craft than tap dancer Savion Glover. At least from a visceral standpoint.

Within the first two minutes he was on stage at the Harris Theater on Friday night, Glover displayed "hoofing" abilities that I don't think anyone else in the world can match.

This includes Marshall Davis, Jr., himself a phenomenal award-winning tap dancer who often shares the stage with the titular star of Savion Glover's STePz.

Davis is extraordinary, as are the "3 Controversial Women"--Robyn Watson, Ayodele Casel, Sara Savelli--who fill out the cast of this touring tap extravaganza set to recorded music by Prince, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Shostakovich, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and others.

I mean, imagine how good a tap dancer must you be to be hand-picked by Savion Glover to dance alongside him in a show he directs and choreographs.

But with all due respect, Glover's abilities--even to a dilettante like me--are a clear step beyond even his esteemed colleagues.

Words won't do him justice--I'll try to find a video to post below--but after his castmates opened the show together, Savion came on to do a rapid-fire solo piece that went for at least 5 minutes straight.

It was "Holy shit!" good. Over and over again.

But perhaps just as good, and even more demonstrative of the depth of his talent, was when Glover shared the stage in group numbers.

On the second piece, titled "When the Lights Go Down," all five dancers maintained a slow, cool rhythm that was sublimely showcased the beauty of syncopation.

Also stupendous was when Glover and Davis twice shared the stage on numbers that had them hoofing up and down two small, double-sided stair cases (see the video below). At times both men would go flying off the top stair, seemingly out-of-control, but never missing a beat.

After intermission, a blond woman who was not listed in the program--I think she's danced with Glover before; this was my fifth time seeing him--joined Savion and two others, and was also dazzling.

Excepting a brief wave at the end, Savion Glover never openly acknowledged the seemingly full house--it was nice to see several kids--and never spoke.

But even with pre-recorded music, and at times no musical accompaniment, I was riveted for the show's full 90 minutes, during which Glover hardly left the stage. If nothing else, just his stamina is awe-inspiring.

Believe me, I am far from a tap dancing aficionado, and certainly no expert. But what Glover can do goes beyond astonishing (or whatever adjective I've yet to use).

And it's not just his blinding speed.

One of the coolest parts of the show was when all 5 cast dancers were in a line at the front of their tap floor, seemingly still and silent. Except for what sounded like a woodpecker.

Only through my binoculars--and I was sitting rather up close--could I see that Glover was doing the tap dancer's version of ventriloquism. Though his leg was not apparently moving, his right foot was tapping with phenomenal rapidity. And he only got faster.

Also astonishing was the penultimate piece, with Savion dancing a beautiful solo to Nina Simone's Mr. Bojangles.

And the final number, an ebullient group dance to Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke," was pure joy.

While Savion Glover was openly paying tribute to some of his dance and music heroes--including his early mentor, the late great Gregory Hines--at the age of 40, he clearly belongs among the all-time greats.

Of anything.

This clip, from Savion Glover's STePz website, should give you an idea what the show and its phenomenal star is all about:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The blonde is Ashley DeForest. She has toured several times with Savion. She owns DeForest Dance Academy in Elmhurst and Glen Ellyn. Savion wore a DeForest Dance t-shirt during the performance.