Savion Glover ‘STePZ’ at his first Harris Theater performance
Hedy Weiss Sun-Times Dance Critic January 22, 2014 6:08PM
Savion Glover | PHOTO BY LOIS GREENFIELD
Savion Glover’s “STePZ,” 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph. $30-$55. (312) 334-7777; harristheaterchicago.org.
Updated: January 25, 2014 11:30AM
Savion Glover refers to himself as “a hoofer,” but some might wish to embellish that title. Call him a master percussionist whose drumsticks just happen to be his feet, or a human beatbox who uses his entire body rather than just his voice.
Beyond those descriptors, Glover, now 40 — and still dancing up a storm three decades into his career — is a devoted dance archivist, continually reworking the styles of such past tap masters as Jimmy Slyde, Gregory Hines, Isaiah Lon Chaney, Buster Brown, Dianne Walker, Chuck Green, George Hillman, Henry LeTang and Sammy Davis Jr. while also putting his own distinctive imprint on the art form.
Glover makes his first visit to the Harris Theater for Music and Dance on Jan. 24 with the Chicago premiere of “STePz,” a program he conceived and produced for New York’s Joyce Theatre last summer. Dancing alongside him will be Marshall Davis Jr. (the Miami-bred dancer who, at 13, won the coveted 1991 Star Search Teen Dance Champion award, and has since performed in Europe, Japan and throughout the United States), as well as the members of 3CW (3 Controversial Women), including Ayodele Casel, Robyn Watson and Sarah Savelli.
The show is set to an eclectic mix of music — everything from John Coltrane and jazz vocalist Kurt Elling to Prince and the theme from “Mission: Impossible.” Then there’s the Chamber Symphony (Op. 110a) by that 20th century Russian master, Dmitri Shostakovich, that inspired an ensemble piece.
“There is something about the mood and rhythmical patterns in the Shostakovich that appeals to me,” said Glover. “There is real movement in his work, and a story behind it. He wrote the piece as a comment on war, and it really gives you the sense of every aspect of living through that.”
Glover teams with Marshall Davis for some competitive numbers, including a segment that involves tapping up and down small wooden staircases.
“Many of the great tap masters of the past used stairs in their acts, from Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson to the Nicholas Brothers and the Berry Brothers,” said Glover. “So this is for them.”
As for Watson, Casel, and Savelli, among other things they have an “Andrews Sisters Moment,” dancing to the “Bugle Call Rag.”
Asked if women have a different style from male tappers, Glover was blunt: “Unfortunately, in my opinion, a lot of women are dancing like men these days. They lack the feminine quality in their dance style. I wish we could bring back the qualities of that generation that was able to maintain a more ladylike approach.”
Glover grew up in Newark, N.J., first appeared on Broadway at the age of 12 in the 1985 musical, “The Tap Dance Kid,” and went on to dance in “Black and Blue” and “Jelly’s Last Jam.” In 1996 he performed in the groundbreaking “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk,” and earned a Tony Award for his choreography for the show.
These days Glover, the father of a 9-year-old son, also oversees the HooFeRzCLub, a school of dance housed in the Newark Community School for the Arts where he once took drum classes.
“It’s a place where people can get more history and education about dancers and the dance itself,” said Glover. “We highlight the lives of the great hoofers — both those who are known, and those who have gone unsung. We don’t teach fancy steps; its more of a holistic approach to the art form.”
NOTE: Glover and 3CW also will perform a “family friendly” show at the Harris Theater on Jan. 25 at 2 p.m.