I know this is a writer’s blog but I have to share some thoughts on what I experienced the other evening. I went to see Savion Glover at George Mason University’s Center for the Performing Arts this past Sunday. It. Was. Incredible. If he is coming to a town near you, go see him. The 39 year-old tap dancer and choreographer clicked, slid, stomped, turned and vibrated his way through an inspired performance that lasted nearly 90 minutes and ran virtually uninterrupted. For most of the evening Glover shared the stage with friend and colleague, Marshall Davis, Jr. (who sadly was neither introduced nor credited in the program). While Davis might not be on quite the same footing as Glover, he is a very close match—an immensely gifted “hoofer” in his own right.
Glover began the evening solo, starting out simply and almost inaudibly taping out his staccato tattoo on a plain raised platform no doubt engineered and properly miked to bring each tap and scrape clearly to every ear in the audience. He built upon and elaborated his beats, working through a complex, and densely textured piece that, it seemed, might go on indefinitely. By about the 20 minute mark, it was clear that this was not going to be a series of short dances broken up by intervening stage banter, but something much bigger. Something more like a classical concerto for feet to be delivered in four movements (an appropriate choice of words I should think).
I was amazed at the range of pitch, tone and dynamics—the rise and fall in volume and intensity. The rhythms were fascinating and hypnotic. It is amazing what the human body is capable of. There were times when feet were moving in a blur and the legs or the whole body vibrated with a jackhammer precision. Much of the show I believe was improvised, but then the pair of dancers would come together in prefect synchronization for extended chunks and again go off into duets where each would compliment, enhance and play counterpoint to the other. It was not just an evening of dance but almost more an evening of music. And by music I do not mean accompaniment (there was very little actual music), I mean the music of their feet and shoes.
At one point the two talents traded steps in call-and-response fashion during a perceived battle of one-ups-manship—maybe “conversation” is a better description. One would dance while the other watched their opponent’s feet with a gleeful smile and then the other would take a turn to delight us all. Back and forth they battled eventually coming together, once again dancing in unison. Another “movement” consisted of improvised solos performed to a recorded jazz piece (one of the rare parts of the evening that involved music other than that coming from the feet of Glover and Davis. It was also one of the rare moments where either dancer took a well deserved break from dancing.) The two men each took a turn at drumming out their moves—inspired by the musical selection rather than “dancing to” it—basically adding their own “voice” to the piece.
The performance was an incredible feat of talent, technique, vision and stamina. We left the theater buzzing and exhausted. If we were worn out from just sitting and watching, I cannot imagine how utterly drained the sweat soaked Glover and Davis felt after exiting the stage. I bet they slept well.
Question: Have you seen any inspiring performances lately?