- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2005

At the start of “Classical Savion” seven musicians spaced across the back of the stage fiercely bow the bold sounds of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” Savion Glover ambles on, steps onto an amplified raised platform and, with a sudden volley of taps, joins in.

The latest show of this phenomenal artist, who appeared at Strathmore last Thursday and Friday, brought his dazzling rhythmic verve to the world of classical music, enlarging the impact of both.

He really digs the music; he reacts to its beat, accenting both the big obvious rhythms and the internal ones, holding a conversation with the score, employing the astounding arsenal of sounds his feet can make — whisper-light taps, faster than anyone has ever done before; a barrage of lightning staccato steps; grand climaxes of crashing sounds knocked off with a flourish.

Mr. Glover has always been into the sound of taps, hunkering down to get the rhythms and pretty much ignoring the rest of his body. (It ain’t Fred Astaire, but it sure is expressive.) Gradually he has let his body join in while still keeping the focus on his driving rhythms. In this latest show he is freer than he has ever been, at times flinging his arms out or spinning around in almost balletic leaps and turns.

He makes his attention to the musical impulse clear, concentrating on the musicians, responding to their playing with his back to the audience. The whole show reflects his personality — it is warm, casual in structure but focused like a laser beam on the rhythmic drive.

Gradually he dances whole phrases facing the audience. By the end of the evening, the change is dramatic: The contrast between his beginning concentration on his musicians to the finale, where he is openly buoyed by the music, facing the audience and letting it all hang out, makes it all the more joyous.

In between, a lot has gone on.

The bulk of the program explores sections of classical music distinguished by their rhythmic drive. Following Dvorak’s “American Quartet,” Mr. Glover darts off stage, his orange shirt drenched with sweat (the only indication he has been exerting himself). That marks the end of the first section.

When he returns, in a fresh turquoise shirt, Mr. Glover brings his whole arsenal of sounds to meet a battery of upbeat works, from a Bach “Brandenburg Concerto”, to music by Bartok and Mendelssohn. He scrapes the side of his foot on the floor to make a rasping noise, chugs along in a fast shuffle as the music builds, punctuating a sharp accent by dancing on the toes of his shoes.

Another interlude, another shirt change, and the program shifts gears. Mr. Glover and his young and talented musicians are joined by the dancer’s longtime collaborators, the jazz band The Otherz, for a grand finale called “The Stars & Stripes Forever (For Now).” Despite the slight irony of the title the mood is upbeat, everyone is grooving, classical and jazz musicians alike, and Mr. Glover, grinning, is still going strong after two hours of almost non-stop tapping.

Only 31, Mr. Glover embodies the whole history of hoofing. The greatest masters of the past were his mentors when he was growing up — among them Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown, Chuck Green and Gregory Hines, who said of him, “Savion’s the greatest tap dancer who ever lived. Period.”

What is so heartening is that he reveres his heritage yet has taken it into fresh territory and new, unimagined expressiveness, this latest show a case in point.

Savion Glover operates with astounding raw energy, but in a tradition where many of his mentors were still going strong into their 80s. That gives the rest of us the prospect of many years to watch what this imaginative artist will do next.

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