dance He burst onto the scene as a tap prodigy 21 years ago, a snap-crackle-pop, step-ball-change 12-year-old star. Eventually he earned a Tony, got dubbed, somewhat homophonically, “the savior of tap” (he had by then surpassed classical steps, bringing tap to a new edge), and exemplified the complexity of physics as his fleet-footed moves eluded cinematic capture. Tuesday, February 6, Savion Glover brought all his selves to the party he threw onstage at the Paramount—gleeful prodigy, jazz musician, gentle superhero—but more than anything else he worked the scene as a Griot. He was Grand Master Tap accompanied by the Furious Nine, telling the people’s story with his long, lean body and those glorious feet. Dancing to the live sounds of classical music by everyone from Vivaldi to Bartok and Bach and Mendelssohn (he calls the show “Classical Savion”), Glover was a marching, Latin-tinged, tick-tock, astrophysical, cow-poking, sea-faring, whirlygig counterpoint to the stringed compositions played so lovingly by the musicians who joined him on stage. We’ve all heard about mathematics being the subtext in J.S. Bach’s compositions, but what about heavy metal or blues rock? Glover tore through the third Brandenburg concerto like John Bonham on Aderol. Disonant? No way! Rhythm is just a measure of time, after all, and by creating an aural and physical bridge, Glover put us right there in both Madison Square Garden circa 1973 and in the manor of Bach’s Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen circa 1720.
Dance dance revolution: Savion Glover delivered more than 300 years of music, history and culture in less than two hours at the Paramount.
If that was a more intellectual exercise, other moments in the intermission-free 100-minute show were acutely visceral, starting at the beginning. While the strings played three of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, evoking the fuzzy bumblebee blur of summer and the silver dusk of winter, Glover was moving across a Western plain, his feet (and knees and legs and luxuriously long arms, when called upon) telegraphing the wide open vista, the mountains in the distance, the smoldering campfire, the notion of possibility that lines the American myth of boundlessness and noble lawmen. Two stories, one poem of music and hundreds of rapt souls taking to the edge of their seats in the Paramount.
And before we get to the indescribably ecstatic conclusion to Glover’s show, the mash-up that brought three more musicians to the stage and combined, as another critic noted, John Coltrane with John Philip Sousa, let us here give a shout out to our host, the Paramount itself. Simply put, the fusty new/old theater has become—whodathunkit?— the place to see top-tier dance performances in this town. Three years and running, and not one bad choice yet. No dance equivalent of the sad, “as seen on Broadway” revival starring C-list celebrities from TV shows no one watched anyway. But as thrilling and astute as the dance programming has been, they might want to stop now. Ain’t nothing gonna top Savion Glover.
Getting back to it: He called the ending number “stars and stripes forever 4 NOW.” A sample of what Glover describes as “improvography,” the piece found him trading riffs with each of the musicians, who now included a quicksilver drummer (what are these people eating?), a pianist and a saxophone/flutist. He introduced each player to the audience and then, Robert Plant-like, traded his metatarsalian version of “ooh-aah-ooyeeah”s with each of them. Mind you, one of the riffs was a Shaker folk tune, another “The Flight of the Bumblebee.” It might have seemed like the point was to remind us of Glover’s unmatched virtuosity (and his joy, which, with that smile plastered across his face and those happy dreadlocks snaking out from a bunch at the back of his head, was never in doubt). In fact, it was probably just a warm-up for everyone.
These are my contemporaneous notes from the jam that ensued as every instrumentalist poured his and her gonads into the music and Glover met all of them with a body that seemed to multiply before one’s very eyes:
“Cacophony. Fourth of July in a bending bonfire haze. Atmosphere rising. Bows on fire. Sharp one-toed crane. Italics. Jazz. Gunfire. Rockets. Subway and crowds. Ellis Island. What? San Francisco in the 1950s. Hippies. Summer of love. Everything that is the messy shrapnel of democracy. Impossibly percussive right foot. Like a whirlygig in riverboots. The United States of Tapography. We’re all in the dance. Every step you take, every up ride you push, any contact, surface to surface, surface to air, mouth to lung. Get on the bus! We’re riding this thing off the cliff! Ferris wheel off its axis. Free at last, thank God almighty, I’m a tap dancer at last. The eagle has landed. Fly me to the moon, buddy. Tight! Zizzle fplishfvifevexxxxdingsingbingalong. Rise this tide. Get off get on get going. Thank you ladies and Gs, Good Night!”