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BWW Reviews: Savion Glover's STePZ is Passion and Percussion Personified

Midway through the first dance I thought to myself, "This number will make a great introduction to my review." Too bad I felt the same way during each of the twelve numbers of the performance. So I guess I'll start out with how I first learned about Mr. Savion Glover.

My mom put me in tap classes when I was six years old, and for Christmas I received a book called, Savion! My Life in Tap. There were two photographs in the book that still stand out in my mind: the first was the photo of Savion hugging a pair of tap shoes, and the second was a photo of Savion's bare feet covered in blisters and bandages. Those two pictures perfectly illustrate Savion Glover. He is so passionate about his craft, which is evident not only when he dances, but also in personal interviews. Savion is a true artist, incomparably engaged and gratified by his art.

Savion Glover's STePZ two-act performance consisted of tap numbers that were each individually stylized and totally unique. The cast consisted of Glover and five other dancers: Marshall Davis Jr. and the 3CW (3 Controversial Women), Robyn Watson, Ayodele Casel, and Sarah Savelli. Glover and his cast keep the evening fresh with twelve tap numbers ranging from full company "tap jams," a salsa-inspired slow piece, to a synchronized 3CW trio, a Bill Robinsonesque routine on wooden platform stairs, and Glover's own solo tribute to his mentor, Gregory Hines, danced to the song, "Mr. Bojangles."

The entire evening was casual - there was no "God-like" announcement to silence our cell phones! The stage was bare and bland except for a wide wooden platform and three smaller wooden platform stairs. The dancers fed off each other's energy and seemed to be dancing as much (maybe more) for themselves as for the audience, and the show concluded without any formal bows, despite the audience's continued ovation after the curtain closed. At one point in a duet between Glover and Davis, Davis jumped backwards off of the top of the stairs, hitting the tip of his tap shoe against each step as he flew down, like a trail of cascading dominoes. Shocked and impressed, Glover stopped dancing and turned to the audience. "Did he just do that?" he asked us. We applauded in response.

As much as I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the STePZ performance, I felt as if the show was meant for a different venue. While the mission of the Joyce Theater to promote and foster dance and choreography directly aligns with Glover himself, the traditional formal elevated stage and direct seating seemed to compete with the unified essence of the performance. Perhaps a "theater in the round" or cabaret-style venue would have better suited the experience. The dancers were so engaged in their tapping that I felt invasive as I watched. Like percussionists (which, technically, they are), the dancers tilted their heads downwards, shrugged their shoulders, and even closed their eyes to connect with their sound. But, clearly Glover and his dancers wanted the audience to be there. As awkward as the environment initially felt, I realized how powerful it really was. Glover gave his all on stage, and we were right there with him. We were hearing it, seeing it, and feeling it. Glover did not want the audience to simply observe tap dance; he actually shared it with us.

Photo Credit: Elijah Paul

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