Editors' pick

SoLe Sanctuary


Editorial Review

Glover approaches tap as tribute
By Lisa Traiger
Friday, January 18, 2013

Savion Glover makes dance a conversation. The world-renowned tap dancer stamps and shuffles, brushes and digs, skids and slams the wood floor in phrases that are more about music-making than about bodies in space. He even advises audiences “to bring their thinking caps because it’s more something to think about than something to see. It’s something to listen to, versus spectacle.”

Now 39, the one-time “Tap Dance Kid” -- the role in which he made his Broadway debut at age 10 -- was mentored by a generation of old-time hoofers who traded steps and threw down challenges on stages and in alleyways behind such theaters as the Apollo, the Howard, the Royal.

On Sunday, Glover brings “SoLe Sanctuary,” his 2011 show honoring those mentors -- such dancers as Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slyde and Sammy Davis Jr. -- to George Mason University’s Center for the Arts. And as the best-known tap dancer of his generation, Glover is ever cognizant that he’s a link in the chain of dancers who have passed on steps, stories and a way of life.

“All of my performances are a tribute to the men and women responsible for my dance progress,” Glover said last week from his Newark studio, which he calls the HooFeRzCLuB.

But “SoLe Sanctuary” is different from Glover’s flashier shows, especially those featuring a jazz ensemble or occasionally a symphony orchestra. For this production, Glover is joined by frequent collaborator Marshall Davis Jr. They dance in silence, letting their bodies set the rhythms. Later, they perform to ambient recorded sounds as well as a recording of John Coltrane’s “Resolution.”

The stage is spare, save for two wooden dance platforms that are miked to amplify the syncopated footwork. Portraits of Hines, Davis and Slyde hang in remembrance, and a pair of tap shoes rests in honor on a stool.

“It’s an evening of homage in performance,” Glover said, “where we can just pay tribute to the cats.”

“SoLe Sanctuary” concentrates on the meditative and spiritual qualities Glover finds in tap. At each performance a person sits onstage and meditates as Davis and Glover dance.

“I call him the ‘meditatorium,’ ” Glover said. “There are several approaches to meditation . . . we meditate, we pray, we recognize the people who are not here, and we recognize the amazing force and energy of God. . . . The purpose of that person meditating onstage is to allow audience members to see that one can also meditate to the sounds of the dance.”

But the performance, which is mostly improvised, always comes back to the dancers who have come and gone. “Not trying to channel their particular steps,” Glover said, “but to make the connections between the energies, between my energy and their spirit.”