BWW Reviews: Savion Glover Searches for Enlightenment in OM
Can a man tap dance his way to Nirvana? Many critics, dance patrons, and hoofers have described Savion Glover performances as a "spiritual experience." In Savion Glover's OM, currently in performance at The Joyce, he attempts to create the literal embodiment of that hyperbole.
Savion Glover is the reigning king of tap. His career started in his childhood as Gregory Hines' protégé. While his bio simply states, "hoofer, father, husband," Glover serves as the undisputed ambassador and teacher of the art form. Glover imbues the history of tap into everything that he creates. In the program notes he credits the evening's "improvography" to Gregory Hines and Jimmy Slyde. In OM, Glover turns the Joyce into a temple of tap. He removes the scrim in order to expose the architecture of the theatre. He further decorates it with tap shoes and covers the stage with myriad candles of various sizes, providing most of the light of the evening, which cover most surfaces on the stage. (These are proven to be fakes when he knocks two over in a tap fury at the end of the performance.) Pictures of spiritual and entertainment heroes are scattered across the stage, turning them into gods/patron saints/ancestor figures. He further places other religious memorabilia including a cross and a Buddha head in order to create an inclusive, pantheistic feeling.
While Glover's spectacle is ambitious, it is ultimately unsuccessful. The performance suffers from a lack of structure and monotony of sound, which leaves the audience disengaged. The program divides OM into three parts, "The Offeringz," "The Prayers," and "The Resolutionz." However, these divisions are seamless and imperceptible to the viewer. The majority of the 90-minute performance is Glover's solo performance of tapping to spoken prayer, chanting and spirituals. The accompaniment is similar in volume, tempo, and tone resulting in a performance that feels very one note. It dulls the spectacle of Glover's skills. The uniformity throughout the piece prevents it from becoming dynamic and transcendental. Glover could combat this by creating more structure within the work or by making better use of the other dancers. Glover performed two brief duets with Marshall Davis Jr. and allowed him one solo. The other three dancers, Mari Fujibayashi, Keitaro Hosokawa, and Olivia Rosenkranz, only tapped once throughout the evening. They spent the rest of their time moving from meditative pose to meditative pose like mechanical dolls.
Despite falling short of an enlightened tap performance, it is commendable that Glover took the risk in the first place. He fully committed himself toward creating something original and spectacular. True believers know that his risk will be reincarnated into a new artistic creation on his path toward Nirvana.