Savion Glover: Bare Soundz @ Sadler’s Wells, London

Savion Glover, Marshall Davis Jr, Maurice ChestnutAs the title suggests, this show sees tap legend, Savion Glover, stripped down to his bare essentials – creatively speaking.

Glover first appeared on Broadway at the age of ten and has since tap danced to everything from classical music to hip-hop.

But in his current show, Bare Soundz, all accompaniments are absent: feet alone make the music.

The stage at Sadler’s Wells was bare except for three podiums on which Glover and two other dancers performed, each with a microphone to pick up the sound of their tapping.
It was the title dance, Bare Soundz, that arguably saw Glover at his best. In it, the initial tapping sounded relatively light, as the beating out of the underlying rhythm alternated sporadically from one foot to the other. Then Glover upped the stakes by landing on the rim of his shoe on certain steps, before proceeding to lift his legs high off the ground.

In other places, however, Glover’s standard practice of performing with dancers he admires (Marshall Davis Jr and Maurice Chestnut in this instance) did not produce dividends. Glover’s ‘trademark’ move is to beat out the bass rhythm on one foot, whilst the other taps at a faster speed to produce the ‘melody’. In this way, the opening number, Swing in, started strongly as six legs working to this central premise introduced more variations upon it. After this, however, the other dancers maintained these same ‘conservative’ steps for most of the number whilst Glover alone took his moves to new heights. The effect was rather like watching a solo vocalist being supported by two backing singers.

This was unfortunate because, when they were given the opportunity, both Davis Jr and Chestnut proved their worth. In particular, in The G Toe, Davis Jr made his body seem ‘rigid’, so that every step he took appeared to reverberate throughout it. Similarly, Trading Places saw each dancer perform on the same podium in turn, swapping places at breakneck speed, whilst the effect of the encore, Groove G Hines, was that of a beat being ‘passed’ between the three dancers as each in turn performed a ‘dominant stamp’.

Nevertheless, whilst Davis Jr and Chestnut demonstrated superlative technical prowess, it was only Glover who also applied flamboyance and a touch of magic to every step he took. Indeed, as he performed Mr Calypsonian he seemed truly possessed by the music and, since he was the one creating it, he was ultimately possessing himself. We therefore witnessed the supreme act of self-expression and self-fulfilment.

All this was enough to remind us just what a class act Savion Glover is. Of course, there will be many more opportunities to see him in the future, but he enjoys tapping to so many different types of music that no two of his shows are ever the same. That, to me, seems all the more reason to see this one while it’s still here.

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