Don’t think soft shoe when you think of Savion Glover, the premier contemporary tap dancer. Don’t think Fred Astaire, although Glover has that same otherworldly grasp of rhythm. Don’t think Gene Kelly, although Glover is just as fit and strong. Glover is like a Picasso of dance, moving from one innovation to the next. His breathtaking one-night performance on Saturday of “SoLo in Time” at the Opera House – a co-presentation of Celebrity Series of Boston and World Music/CRASHarts – combined one part Flamenco, one part tap and many parts joyous collaboration.
Working with his present band, a trio of brilliance he calls Bare Soundz, Glover uses his percussive “Hooferz” technique to integrate the passion of flamenco – a term that references both a music and a solo dance style – with the intensity of those amazing feet of his.
The show opens with Glover, SoLo, soon to be supported by the muted background beat of Carmen Estevez’ cajón box drum. She is a Spanish singer/musician, now living in New York, known for having taken traditional flamenco to new, exploratory places.
Next, another New Yorker, Francesco Beccaro comes to perch near Estevez on a bar stool with his electric bass. On the other side of the amplified (as in microphone) wooden tap platform where Glover dances, sits the Argentinean guitarist Gabriel Hermida, bending over his instrument, his inexhaustibly fast hands a match for Glover’s feet. For some of the show, they are joined by the award-winning Floridian hoofer Marshall Davis Jr.
The chemistry among them all is as much an element of the night’s magic as the pulsing music or the mesmerizingly complex percussion of Glover’s feet. A house crowded with excited fans adds to the buzz. The bursts of applause in all the right places shows them to be aficionados of this unique genre Savion Glover is creating.
Estevez’s delicate voice adds a melodic lyricism to a number of the program’s pieces, many of which morph and flow together in a single show with no intermission. Glover doesn’t relate directly to the audience much, except to twice take the mic to introduce and praise his colleagues, artists and backstage folks alike, and to dedicate the evening to his dance heroes – from Gregory Hines to Jimmy Slyde – who have gone before. One of Glover’s many charms is his explicit love and respect for talent in others.
If there is anything to criticize in “SoLo in Time,” it is that the pounding excitement is so relentless that when he does lay down a carefree and light-hearted riff, one realizes that mellow moments seem too few and far between.
Savion Glover is crafting an experimental development of the possibilities of tap, moving from innovation to innovation: in 2006, for example, he worked with classical music. At the heart of Saturday’s performance was a precision of communication between Glover and his team that felt as much like a jazz group as a flamenco band – the musicians sharing the spotlight with him in turn. One outstanding moment is a duet between Estevez’s voice and Glover’s tapping, with only her hand-clapping as accompaniment. Glover’s performance generosity is in apparent glory when he uses his tapping to provide the percussion bottom line in support of Marshall Davis Jr.’s dancing.
Savion Glover’s ability to tease out rhythms within rhythms is discombobulating to the audience in the very best sense – it is often mind-blowing. It is an honor, though, to be a witness of someone who is reshaping a genre, expanding human perception of rhythm and doing it all with a sweet, warm smile.
This review appeared on EdgeBoston.com.