Savion Glover, Sadler’s Wells, London – review

Savion Glover has been an astonishment as a tap-dancer from early in his career, and as he enters his fourth decade astonishment increases at the rhythmic daring, the bravura and that astounding freedom that musical virtuosi acquire, all of which mark his performance manner.

He was in London as the week ended, with his fine colleague Marshall Davis Jr, in an evening entitled (for no good reason I could discern) SoLe Sanctuary. There was a stage, bare save for the dancers’ amplified tap floor, unemphatic lighting, and (curiouser and curiouser) a white-garbed chap who provided a continuing and hieratic series of what I supposed were devotional and probably Hindu poses, but was otherwise mere stage dressing. Or perhaps his yoga class had forgotten to tell him about the cancellation.

If there was a slightly portentous air about events – and there was – let this be owed to the intense and concentrated nature of the dance. The greatest exponents of tap, from Astaire and Bojangles to Gregory Hines (and Paul Draper, whom I had the great good fortune to see on stage), have shown a jazzy sophistication that plays with a musical base, and a virtuosity that builds fascinating and parallel structures with music and rhythms.

Glover is no less adventurous and resourceful. He and Davis establish tap-patterns, embroider them with both wit and some muscular ferocity, pass them one to another, start to shift dynamic schemes and adopt them to their own bravura ends, and provide for their audiences a game of Follow My Leader in which we can join in the fascinating chase of steps that shift, morph, reassert an identity and then transform it, and move dazzlingly on. All this is done by these virtuosi with a sense that they dive into their own personalities to find rhythmic cells to share with their alter ego, or to challenge him, and then dazzle the audience with this exchange of ideas. In this they succeed handsomely.

The evening has its drawbacks. “Meaning” may well be scratching faintly at the door, and everything goes on for too long. Albeit given with an untiring mastery, the dance eventually seems unrelenting and curiously self-indulgent.

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