There are those who have never heard of Savion Glover, those who have heard his name, and those who fly from England to see him dance at the Howard Theatre in Washington last night.
Savion Glover is billed as “The Greatest Tap Dancer in the World” on the promotional poster hanging in the lobby of the Howard Theater. This is no marketing ploy, this is a statement of fact. Glover began tapping at age 7, learning the basic time steps and shuffle-f’laps in conventional tap classes. It wasn’t until he discovered Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slyde, and other African-American hoofers that he began to really dance. He is known for his reverence toward the great hoofers and jazz musicians who came before him, and dances with purpose; that purpose is to honor everyone who paved the way for his success. He knows from where he comes, and it’s clear when he’s performing on stage that he is not there for himself; he is there to represent, honor and inspire others.
Savion dances in an improvisational world where the call-and-response music between him and his musicians is a “what we do is what you get” experience for the audience – and that audience gets Glover’s feet, body, heart, soul, mind, random scat noises and, for those lucky enough to sit up against the stage, his flying beads of sweat.
The show opens with no bells and whistles, but rather a thin, strutting man in slacks and a Calvin Klein T-shirt (See: Those lucky enough to sit up against the stage and see brand tags) entering from stage right. He plants himself at the front of a raised platform and taps for fifteen minutes a capella. Every shuffle, flap, slide, dig, wing, pull back, toe-tap, and stomp emitted a different sound, and not even Glover knew what sound was coming next. He was lost in his own syncopated world as he snapped, muttered, and winced in concentration.
After this sundae, the cherry and whipped cream came out in the form of Marshall Davis, Jr.. an old hoofer whose style is more reminiscent of silk than Glover’s crushed velvet style of dance. He stood tall, moved his feet in time with his friend’s, and together they had a conversation with their bodies. From this moment until the last number, Savion had a smile on his face that came from his toes. Sharing the stage with other great musicians brings out his euphoric, boyish grin.
For the rest of the show, Glover danced with a four-man jazz band, including a pianist, bass player, drummer, and saxophonist. Each musician was playing along with Savion and he was in turn tapping along with them. One could not tell who was doing the calling and who was responding, including the musicians themselves –pianist Marcus Persiani, bassist Alex Hernandez, drummer Dwayne “Cook” Broadnax, and saxophonist Bill Saxon –and that’s the way they like it. Each musician got the spotlight as Savion played with them like kids on a jungle gym, taking turns and finding joy from the other. There was only one down-tempo number about two-thirds of the way into the show, and by down tempo think Elton John, not Celine Dion. The wonderful encore was Savion’s tappi’ good take on The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things.”
There is one more performance tonight, and for a relatively low cost, you can soak up the artistry, passion and unmatched musicality of a man who lives to honor those who came before him. Get there when the doors open at 6:00 pm and enjoy dinner from your front row, spitting-distance seat as you wait for the real music man to arrive.
See for yourself why a young couple from England who attended the performance said it was worth the trip.
Running Time: One hour and twenty minutes, with no intermission.
Savion Glover has one more show tonight, August 25, 2o14 at 8 PM at The Howard Theatre – 620 T Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 803-2899. Online sales have ended.