This man can move: Savion Glover at Lobero


Tap-dancing wonder Savion Glover brings out his dancing art from somewhere deep within his thin frame. Like a Rasta shaman, he conjures multilayered syncopation, pushing and pulling the beat, compressing and exploding over and over into showers of rapid-fire foot movements. At nearly 90 minutes of dancing with only a short break, Mr. Glover thrilled the Lobero audience on Sunday night in a personal, packed show.

He has been amazing theatergoers since he was 12, and his tour brings a four-piece jazz ensemble along with a young protégé called Cartier for a deep examination of tap-dancing. Whereas traditional tap-dancers coast along on top of the music, with gaps left by the band for the dancer to fill, Mr. Glover is the fifth instrument.

Just as fascinating as watching his blurring feet was watching the looks of his band members, especially Brian Grice on drums, who looked to the dancer to suggest rhythms and hooks. Likewise, pianist George Caldwell craned his neck to improvise on Mr. Glover’s sound. Bassman Gregory Jones looked on carefully. This was a conversation between all members.

Mr. Glover seems a shy, unassuming dancer. Feeling no need to plaster a smile on his face while performing, Mr. Glover looks alternately joyous, troubled, intense, inquisitive, surprised. He sometimes looks like he is ordering movement in his legs. Other times, he looks flabbergasted at what he is doing. He sometimes holds his hands out from his bent knee, as if he were summoning some universal power.

For the first number, he mostly kept his back to the audience, favoring close interaction with the band, like a late-era Miles Davis. He brought a microphone to sing scat and set a human beatbox rhythm. In the other hand was a towel to control the flow of sweat that flies from his scraggly beard or from his dreadlocked head. Later on, he began to lock eyes with members of the audience as he made his way around the stage — bedazzled onlookers serving as North Stars for navigation. That’s if he was looking at them at all — at that level of concentration he may have looked straight through them.

The band played mostly John Coltrane-era jazz, finishing its set with “My Favorite Things.”

“One generation knows this song from ‘The Sound of Music,’ ” said Mr. Glover in the only real speech he gave. “But our generation know it as a Coltrane song.”

Breaking into a spacey introduction more like saxophonists’ “A Love Supreme,” the band and Mr. Glover took their time to get to the recognizable part of the song, and then they set off on a wild journey of improvisation.

The special raised stage for Mr. Glover’s performance turns into a sounding box for his dance, leaving behind any ideas of a high-pitched tap. The stage extends his range from high scraping sounds to booming stomps or thundering hooves.

With little introduction, Mr. Glover brought on teenager Cartier Williams, who soloed through “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”

Mr. Williams at points had to hitch up his baggy jeans to achieve his effects. He, too, did not recognize the audience, but dived inside himself, possessed by the fury of tap. When Mr. Glover jumped back onstage at the end of the solo and matched Mr. Williams’ final phrase tap for tap, it was a warm acknowledgment between teacher and student.

Although Mr. Glover has expanded the vocabulary of tap, the running time did push the dancer to the boundaries of his art. He does not rely on flashy acrobatics, splits or any cross-pollination with the hip-hop dance world. Apart from some spins, Mr. Glover kept the focus on and connection to the ground. Which is a nice way of saying that the show might have lasted a bit too long for all but the hard-core fan.

Mr. Glover returned with Patience Higgins for a modest encore. Facing each other like duelists, Mr. Glover and Mr. Higgins matched licks, the latter’s alto sax against Mr. Glover’s feet. It was a microcosm of the entire evening: the audience captive by attention but not recognized, and the performers lost inside their art

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