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Savion Glover Sizzles at Hollywood's Ford Amphitheatre

by Jessica Abrams
July 16, 2017
Ford Amphitheatre
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East
Los Angeles, CA 90068
323-461-3673
Tap dance, that uniquely American blend of African tribal dances and Irish step dancing, stands apart from other dance forms in that where other styles perform to music (or words or silence), in tap the movement "is" the music. What makes watching tap so compelling is the fusion of sound and visuals to yield a unique sensory experience that not only lets the audience participate more fully in the spectacle, but almost allows people to feel like they ARE the spectacle – and not just via their own toe-tapping and head-bobbing.

Few tap dancers have the versatility and virtuosity of Savion Glover. Few tap dancers fully become the music like Glover does to the degree that it becomes almost impossible to discern where one starts and the other stops. This was perfectly in evidence July 15 at The Ford Amphitheatre when Glover kicked off the IGNITE @ the Ford series. Along with the band Dance Candy, Glover shared the stage with fellow hoofers Marshall Davis, Jr., Robyn Watson and Karissa Royster. As the band – a coronet, drums, guitar, bass guitar, keyboard and vocals – opened with “My Favorite Things”, Glover embarked on a syncopated journey of riffs, shuffles, ball changes and stomps that gave the audience the feeling of watching Miles or Coltrane on stage.

Tap has come a long way since Glover burst onto the scene with “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk” in 1996. That is, it has, and it hasn’t. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson performed what was later termed “Rhythm Tap”, which is a focus more on the rhythms being tapped out than the movement that allows the body to get there. So did Jimmy Slyde, a few decades later. Slyde’s sheer elegance and - yes – syncopated slides across the floor were a perfect match for the burgeoning jazz rhythms be-bopping in clubs across the country. But then Broadway and Hollywood caught on, and tap became more visually oriented, by way of Fred Astaire’s elegance and Gene Kelly’s athleticism and Rhythm Tap gave way to the bigger, bolder Broadway Tap.

But as the Hollywood studio system went the way of auteur filmmaking and Coltrane gave way to Jagger, tap dance was put on ice – a relic of a more innocent time, eclipsed by Woodstock, war and Watergate. But a brilliant triple-threat named Gregory Hines revived it, and Glover, a protégé of Hines’ helped take the art form to the next level so that it could be just that: a true art form. Glover, himself a dancer in the Rhythm Tap tradition, focuses more on the rhythms he’s producing than on the visual effect they have.

Glover didn’t share the stage easily last night, but when he did, and when all four dancers were on stage, the result was both a visual and auditory carnival that makes watching tap so enjoyable. In a simple, basic-tap-mixed-with-soft-shoe, the dancers faced the audience and moved elegantly and simply to the music. Before that, each dancer performed a solo in his or her unique style. Davis was old-school hard-hitting hoofing; Watson had an earthy quality, and Royster was lighter, her rhythms no more intricate but with a softer touch. The effect was like a jazz band, with instruments taking turns with their solos. In contrast, Glover’s style was bold and complex, always going for the more complicated rhythms rather than the simple ones, giving the effect of being another instrument in the band.

A showman to his bones, Glover doesn’t so much acknowledge the audience as listen to his own beat, which, truth be told, became somewhat monotonous, as evidenced by the effect of the four dancers moving in unison on stage. The truth is, there is only so much hard-hitting tapping the ears can take without a more deliberate visual flourish to match. With their upper bodies loose, and each in his or her own style, the sight and sound of four dancers moving together, their time steps and their shuffle-hop-steps in sync, the foursome made for a beautiful place to rest the eyes and a series of sounds that were music to the ears.
Savion Glover

Savion Glover

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Norris


Savion Glover

Savion Glover

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Norris


Savion Glover

Savion Glover

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Norris


Savion Glover and cast

Savion Glover and cast

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Norris


Savion Glover and cast

Savion Glover and cast

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Norris

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