BWW Review: Savion Glover's SoLe Sanctuary
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by Nancy Grossman
Savion Glover's SoLe Sanctuary
Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston and World Music/CRASHarts at Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA, on Saturday, January 12, 2013
Judging by the size and enthusiasm of the audience at the Boston Opera House on Saturday night, the rumors of the demise of tap dancing in America are greatly exaggerated. To witness the performance of Savion Glover, the man Gregory Hines labeled "possibly the best tap dancer that ever lived," is to know that the art form is safe as long as his feet have anything to say about it. Indeed, Glover is the self-appoinTed Keeper of the flame, the sanctity of the history that qualifies tap as an art form. SoLe Sanctuary is his tribute to the masters who came before and initiated him into the world of the dance.
Poster-size photos of seven of the late, great dancers (Hines and Sammy Davis, Jr., among them) hang above the stage, their spirits inspiring Glover and his friend and collaborator Marshall Davis, Jr., as they pound out a rhythmic conversation on a raised wooden platform. The only other stage effects are an array of votive candles, a pair of tap shoes on an empty platform, and a woman seated in an upstage corner assuming a variety of meditative poses. New Age music wafts in and a Zen-like aura settles over the space as Glover, clad in white, steps up onto the platform to begin the program solo.
After a short period of time, Davis materializes and joins Glover. They alternate between side by side choreography, back and forth conversations with their combinations, and taking turns in the spotlight with the other providing background rhythm. Glover's turns in front are longer and more intricate. He gets into a zone that seems to erase awareness of the audience as he shifts tempos and rhythms repeatedly. About forty-five minutes into the non-stop display, he grabs a handheld microphone to vocalize along with the tap. It isn't exactly singing - more like a chant - but I could make out the lyrics, "There will never be another you."
The second number has a jazz soundtrack at the start and features an amazing repetition of toe taps with varied accents by both men in unison. When Davis takes his turn downstage, he switches to an exhibition of heel taps, working his way up to a speed that makes his whole body quiver. His style is clunkier, as compared to Glover's joy-filled fluidity, but they are in synch and complement each other well. This segment also runs about forty-five minutes and Davis leaves the stage at its conclusion. Although the program lists eleven titles, one would be hard-pressed to know where one ends and another begins, but for the final section "Amen." Glover is alone again in the spotlight with a reprise of the New Age music and a recorded voiceover of Hines. The final dance segment feels like a spiritual tribute from the protégé. When he steps off the platform, he looks reverentially at the posters overhead as the curtain slowly falls.
The program indicates that Glover dedicates the performances of SoLe Sanctuary to the memory of Jimmy Slyde, Gregory Hines, Steve Condos, Lon Chaney, Henry LeTang, Buster Brown, George Hillman, Sir Slide Mitchell, Bernard Manners, LaVaughn Robinson, Eddie Brown, Chuck Green, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ralph Brown, Charles "Honi" Coles, and John Coltrane. They are the hooferz (sic) and musicians who influenced him and helped him develop into a tap genius. Although I don't always feel entertained, there is no arguing that his abilities are out of this world, and to see him dance is to see the physical embodiment of joy and rapture.
Photo credit: World Music/CRASHarts (Savion Glover)