The Otherz, a four-piece jazz band, have been noodling away on the stage for some minutes when Glover joins them. Standing sideways on to the audience, with his head bowed, he slowly starts to move in time to the music, picking up the rhythms and riffs of the band until his feet are firmly established as an instrument in their own right. The band are not there to back him up, rather he becomes part of the band, jamming with them, creating a show that is as much jazz concert as dance showcase.
Glover is as big as they get in tap circles. He starred in the award-winning musical Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk and *consults press release* his movements were image captured for the character of Mumble in a film called Happy Feet. (Something to do with dancing penguins. Something I suspect will never be watching. Ever.)
However, from the outset, its clear that Glover is determined that this show not be about him, but about tap as an art form, about blurring the lines between music and dance. In the first half, he quickly establishes his role as a fifth member of the band, there are no flashy gestures or show-off moves, or even much in the way of audience interaction. Instead Glover (dressed in a white baggy shirt and trousers with green tap shoes) stood hunched forward, with his trademark dreadlocks bobbing, occasionally using his hands to count out a rhythm or signal to the band, but otherwise remaining still, immersed in the music, allowing the audience to focus on his, amazingly intricate and fluid, footwork.
This idea – the body as instrument – was taken further in the livelier and longer second half, where he was joined on stage by three supporting dancers. As in a jam session, each of his fellow tappers had their solo moment, taking turns to create riffs and patterns on the raised wooden stage.
Sometimes after watching, say a traditionally staged ballet, Ill come away feeling in awe of the dancers evident technical skill but unable to connect emotionally with what I have seen. On this occasion I was able to do both. I left the venue feeling pleasantly uplifted warm and excited. Though, unlike some other audience members, I was (just) about able to restrain myself from testing out some rudimentary tap moves on the Islington streets as I walked back to the tube.