writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, New York edition

Sheer Delight

Savion Glover
Joyce Theater
New York, NY
December 19, and December 28, 2003

By Susan Reiter
copyright © 2003 by Susan Reiter

Savion Glover crooning songs associated with Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra? Tapping to Christmas melodies? In some ways, it is a mellower, more engaging Glover holding forth, in great style, at the Joyce Theater for three weeks. His Bring in Da Noise baggy hip outfits have been replaced by casually elegant apparel credited to Armani, DKNY and Phat Farm. He sports a beard, but his hair is pulled back, and we can see more of his face than in the days when his intense, hunched-over posture and dreadlocks obscured it much of the time. During most of his thrilling two-part program, that face is beaming with pure delight, as he takes evident pleasure in the exquisitely sophisticated exchanges he performs with a terrific five-piece jazz ensemble.

Glover is the tap dancer extraordinaire, capable of locating, cajoling and transmitting an amazing array of subtle rhythms through his feet. For the 45-minute first half of Improvography, as he has titled the program he directed and choreographed, he holds forth with incredible variety, not to mention stamina. From the moment he starts things off by singing Jerome Kern's "Just the Way You Look Tonight," his feet quietly but insistently locating a galloping rhythm within the music, it's clear that for him, expressing the beat through his body is as natural as breathing is for most of us. The movement seems to just happen spontaneously rather than being consciously created by him, as though perpetual motion was his natural state of being.

He and the band lead us through consistently surprising variations and evolutions of the song, with Glover occasionally taking his microphone from his back pocket and singing another verse, or erupting in some fierce scat-singing. Hearing him sing seems natural and right, confirming his connection with the musicians, with whom he shares an easy, appreciative rapport. The speed, precision and variety of what emerges from his feet at times defies belief, even as one is watching it.

Glover hardly takes a real break during his extended solo. Pausing momentarily to toss off his jacket, revealing his already sweated-through shirt, and taking time to introduce the musicians by name—even then, he's not standing still, as his feet "converse" in rhythm with each of them. When he's fiercely tapping at the rear of his well-miked dance floor, positioned right in front of the bandstand, a floor-level light creates a glow that captures his profile with a small waterfall of sweat falling from his beard.

The adventure continues, through a surprisingly sensual arrangement of "My Favorite Things" (from The Sound of Music), a brief playful sampling of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and a journey through the syncopated possibilities of "One for My Baby," which Glover finds the energy to sing in a jauntily offbeat manner. Glover's attack keeps changing—one moment he is "hitting," pounding the front half of his feet to create sharp, intense sounds; moments later he evokes such a multiplicity of subtle rhythms that you'd swear you were hearing at least five pairs of feet.

The title "Improvography" (a term Gregory Hines is credited with inventing) promises a lot of room for variation and unpredictability within a set structure. The first time I saw the program. Glover and the saxophonist engaged in a lively, playful conversational duet. That didn't happen when I was able to catch the show again over a week later, when Glover appeared even more relaxed and in the zone. He incorporated a few poetic readings by an offstage Reg E. Gaines (who was the lyricist and original speaker of "Bring in da Noise, Bring in Da Funk), announced to the musicians he would do "a little acappella riff" without them, and proceeded to sing and dance with complete joy and openness to "You Make Me Feel so Young."

The happiness Glover expressed so effortlessly was a striking aspect of this show. There was nothing self-satisfied or self-conscious about it. He was clearly enjoying his ability to create such unique rhythmic expression and share it with an audience. The seven members of his ensemble Ti Dii, who shared the stage with him to the second half, have learned a great deal from him, but the dancing does not spill from them with the same effortlessness and joy. The fact that the second half featured recorded music (not identified in the program, although Stevie Wonder and Chaka Kahn were recognizable) that came across as a blurry undercurrent most of the time also diluted its impact and reduced the element of spontaneity.

When the dancers tapped without musical accompaniment, things got more exciting. One of these, a tight section for the four women, was a highlight. Jamar Davis Jr. took center stage for an extended solo in which he remained in one spot, but kept his feet chattering through an extended dialogue, gradually evolving from a square four-beat rhythm to a flurry of swift, complex sounds. It was a pleasure to see Cartier Anthony Williams, who was already wowing audiences as a cute tyke of ten, display a more mature, but still vigorous and amazingly nimble, tap style now that he is fourteen.

Unison tapping within the intricate patterns Glover devises has its pleasures, and he finds ways to vary it, interspersing solo bits of having the men and women alternate in varied rhythmic phrases. He joins in just enough to amp up the level of excitement and encourage the others to meet his level of playfulness and inventiveness.

The musicians who contributed so much to Glover's spectacular solo were Tommy James, piano; Patience Higgins, saxophone/flute; Andy McCloud, bass; Brian Grice, drums; and James Zollar, trumpet.

Originally published:
Volume 1, Number 14
December 29, 2003

Copyright ©2003 by Susan Reiter



Back issues

Index of Reviews
Back Issues
About Us
Contact Us

Sister Sites:
Ballet Alert! Online
Ballet Talk
Ballet Blogs



Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Nancy Dalva
Gia Kourlas
Gay Morris
Susan Reiter
Alexandra Tomalonis(Editor)
Meital Waibsnaider
Leigh Witchel
David Vaughan


The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of San Francisco Ballet (by Rita Felciano) and Paris Opera Ballet (by Carol Pardo)

The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

DanceView is available by subscription ONLY. Don't miss it. It's a good read.  Black and white, 48 pages, no ads. Subscribe today!

DanceView is published quarterly (January, April, July and October) in Washington, D.C. Address all correspondence to:

P.O. Box 34435
Washington, D.C. 20043


Copyright ©2003 by by DanceView
last updated on October 20, 2003