Tap dancer Savion Glover
Friday night in the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts.
Even if you've only seen Savion Glover in Cingular commercials, you probably know that there's nothing genteel about his tap dancing.
To see him live, however, is to truly appreciate the sweat-soaked intensity of his hoofing. Glover delights in exploring the rhythmic nuances of every inch of his taps. He busts open the conventional form with speed, ferocity and an ever-expanding catalog of footwork that would never fly in Miss Betty Jean's School of Time Stepping.
But it's taken Glover to lofty places, from the Great White Way to the White House. On Friday night, the 31-year-old revolutionary landed at the University at Buffalo, where his magical feet kicked up puffy clouds of rosin and his lanky shadow loomed large on the black curtains.
Glover emerged from the wings sporting baggy black pants, ankle boots and a tangerine Oxford. Around his neck was slung a laminated photograph of Gregory Hines, which seemed less a fashion accessory than a talisman. After all, Hines was one of Glover's chief mentors, not to mention his artistic forerunner.
But where Hines -- who performed last year at UB, several months before his death -- pushed the envelope with his trademark hoofing, Glover tore the paper to shreds. In fact, his Friday night shuffles were so rapid-fire that, at times, his feet blurred.
The show, titled "Improvography II," opened with a blazing 20-minute free-form jazz number. The lanky Tony winner spent much of the time with his back to the audience, engaged in witty musical interplay with his four-piece band. Glover's feet served as the fifth instrument, while his unfettered upper body appeared to be along for the ride.
And what a wild ride it was. Glover is by no means a traditional song-and-dance man, and that contributes mightily to his charm. In the first half of the program he launched into an uptempo riff on "The Way You Look Tonight" all the while brushing his feet, scraping the floor and even drawing sounds from his inner arches.
In the second half of the program, Glover exchanged his button-down for a Flash Gordon T-shirt and introduced his company of dancers, Maurice Chestnut, Ashley DeForest and Cartier Williams. Although the trio stepped with exuberance, they lacked Glover's looseness.
The sets and lighting were simple but effective. At one point a shaft of light extended the length of the stage, highlighting the dancers' feet as they skittered across the stage.
Taking a breath on the sidelines, Glover grinned at his sharp-stepping proteges. One can only imagine that, somewhere, Hines was smiling, too.