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Savion Glover has for many years been considered the greatest tap dancer of his generation, and among the greats of all time. Now, in his mid-thirties, he is in the prime of his artistic life. Duke Performances hosted him in Page Auditorium (nearly sold-out), where he presented SoLe Sanctuary, A Hoofer’s meditation on the art of tap. It was wonderful. Wonder full.
The stage was set like a shrine, or temple, or worshipping ground. Glover, a devotée all in white, and second dancer Marshall Davis, Jr. performed on a raised wooden platform downstage. A microphone waited on a stand, and small speakers angled in toward the dancers from the four corners, with the sound monitors crouched along the front edge. They seemed totemic. Behind the dance platform, an altar glowed with votive fire. Beside it, Kietaro Hosokawa, also in simple white clothes, sat in meditation throughout the 80-minute performance. Above them all, strung high in the space, hung photographic portraits of great tap dancers. Alone, nearest the altar, hung a beautiful tight head shot of Gregory Hines, one of Glover’s teachers and mentors.
Glover’s attention focuses first on the altar, while an edited and looped voice tape describes how he felt as a child when he first saw tap. “I just got so excited.” These words are sectioned and repeated and looped into nascent rhythm, and Glover serenely mounts the platform. What follows seems ceremonial, the presentation and elaboration of styles and techniques in their own honor and that of the art form. In his white flowing clothing, Glover was like a priest or conjur man (sic), and the power flowed through him. (A curious detail: Glover’s shoes, rather substantial items, were light-colored, similar to his skin tone, and this gave one the feeling that he was dancing directly on the ground, even while one was looking at the heels and taps.) The dancing was pure and elegant (his neat little spins; his brush-and-scuff, his inspired posture linking ground and sky) and full of love.
He’d already developed very complex rhythms by the time Marshall Davis, Jr. joined him on the platform, but the richness of the sound more than doubled when they danced together. Davis, a very fine dancer, wore close-fitting gray pants and bright green shirt and black dance boots, making an electric contrast to the white-garbed devotees. Davis sometimes danced back-up; sometimes became a partner or challenger; sometimes took the lead and two or three times danced solo while Glover took momentary breaks. Sometimes there was music, sometimes not. Once Glover took the microphone and crooned some notes and sounds. One of the songs was “A Love Supreme.” All of SoLe Sanctuary was a symphony for feet, and a trance-inducing rhythm massage for the bodies watching and listening.