Savion Glover – Sole Sanctuary at Sadlers Wells

When we put on our hit West End Dance Show “Revolution”, which featured the best UK dancers in Tap, Hip-hop, and Contemporary dance, it was the first time I had seen tap-dancing live on Stage. The Tap stars of “Revolution” were Adam Garcia and Douglas Mills, who had been the lead dancers in the International Phenomenon “Tap Dogs”.  Watching Adam and Douglas rehearse and perform “Revolution”, I completely fell in love with tap dancing.  And when you fall in love with tap dancing you keep hearing one name over and over again – Savion Glover.

Savion Glover is the genius of Tap.  A child prodigy from New Jersey who had trained and danced with many of the greats of American Tap – such as Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr, and Lon Chaney to name but a few.  I had spent hours watching amazing clips of Glover dancing on Youtube and this was the chance to see the legend perform live at Sadlers Wells.

The “set” was minimal, with just a large wooden platform a couple of inches high in the middle of the Stage and a few pictures of his illustrious mentors hanging in the background (the “Spirits Known”).  And there was Savion Glover, with his distinctive dreadlocked hair and baggy pale top and trousers (he is so thin that when he momentarily stood in front of the spotlight, I thought you could actually see through him!).

Glover began with a shuffle around the outer edges of his platform, almost seeming to warm up for what was to come.  Then he began!  It is impossible to accurately describe the moves that Glover performed, he can do things with his feet that I simply did not believe were possible – this man taps on tip-toe!  He uses every part of the shoe and literally creates music with his feet.  This is a crucial point, for most of the performance there is no musical accompaniment.  Glover is creating his own music to highlight his movement – the movement becomes the music.

After a time Glover was joined on Stage by Marshall Davis Jr.  From this point any musical accompaniment was no longer needed.  The two dancers took turns leading, then working together, to produce a masterpiece of movement and music.  This is where you benefit from actually being present to watch and listen.  Their feet make ever-changing sounds that perfectly complement one another – a symphony of sound.  Until then I had not understood Glover’s comment that “it really is all about the music”, but now I think I do.

I have two reflections on the performance from a commercial rather than a purist point of view (by “commercial” I mean putting on a Show that the general public, rather than the Savion Glover disciple, would want to come and watch/listen to).

First, what Glover is doing, the genius he is producing, could be described as “over-tap” – it is beyond normal tap dancing in a way that any genius in his field is so far ahead of everyone else that he risks being “inexplicable” to ordinary people thus gaining an almost mystical/religious dimension.  (And Glover certainly plays on this.  There is a person meditating on Stage throughout the performance and the title of the piece itself has mystical/religious implications).  I appreciate that what Glover and Marshall were doing was constantly changing, but these changes (to my ordinary eye and ear) were so minimal that it often seemed repetitive – doing the same thing over and over again.

My second observation also highlights one of the phenomenal aspects of the man.  Glover performs for 90 minutes with only two 5 minute “breaks” where he stands watching his partner continue the rhythm on his own.  This is an amazing achievement in itself.  But I wondered if it would have been better for him (and the audience) to have taken a few breaks.  I kept thinking:  “What would he be able to do if he wasn’t exhausted?!”  And his most jaw-dropping moves seemed to come after each break.  But perhaps Glover is looking to achieve for his followers that religious “high” which could be ruined by any interruption….

The aforementioned Douglas Mills, the Tap star of “Revolution” and “Tap Dogs” has created a more commercial Tap venture called Tap Corps (Have a look at “Tap Corps” in action)  In contrast to Glover, “Tap Corps” involves a number of dancers, male and female, performing to various popular tracks in a highly choreographed fashion.  The dancers are not as exceptional as Glover (that would be impossible) and there is no mystical/religious undertone.  But it is far more entertaining and indeed explicable to the average dance enthusiast such as myself.

Saturday 5th April 2014 The Dincwear Team.