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Better and better: Savion Glover.

Tap Traditions
By Mae G. Banner

Savion Glover with Jimmy Slyde and Dianne Walker

Jacob’s Pillow, June 25

Seeing Savion Glover per- form alongside national treasures Jimmy Slyde and Dianne Walker is like being inside a time machine. You can see the ancients moving within Glover, and you can see him becoming an honored ancient one day.

It’s exhilarating—almost scary—to experience all that wisdom made visible. Slyde, white-haired and debonair at 70- or maybe 80-something, danced effortlessly, out of deep reserves of knowledge and skill. He joshed with the Jacob’s Pillow audience, singing a little as he moved, and did that smooth signature one-foot slide, which is so hip, across the floor.

Walker, who also has achieved a certain age, was quieter. She was just as likely to stand at the side of the stage, moving her torso subtly and to herself while Glover and his four young protégés from Chapter IV hit, paddled and rolled. But, when she stepped forward, her shoulders shrugged to a jazz beat, her head nodded and her extended arms traced an elegant embroidery in the air.

Slyde and Walker, two of Glover’s many mentors and repositories of rhythm, anchored the line of dancers in group passages. Glover, of course, was at the center, flanked by Maurice Chestnut, Ashley DeForest, and the 15-year-old wonder, Cartier A. Williams.

Glover smiled as he has not been known to do in previous concerts. Maybe it’s because he was surrounded by all this living history, made and in the making.

All this was in conversation with Glover’s savvy combo, the Otherz: musical director Tommy James, piano; Brian Grice, percussion; Patience Higgins, saxophone and flute; and Andy McCloud, double bass. Trading solos with Glover or picking up his groove and carrying it further, they unfurled standards, including “The Way You Look Tonight,” “There Will Never Be Another You,” and “Satin Doll,” filling their solos with wit and ceaseless surprises.

Glover, tapping on a raised, miked floor that could have been a drum in its own right, alternately skidded to stage right or left to face James or Higgins (the band was on their own raised stage above and behind the tap floor, all in full view of the audience) and launch a dialogue. Like other leaders of jazz groups, he fa-vors the piano and sax most as partners/ challengers/fellow explorers.

They never failed him. At one point, I could see James’ and Glover’s eyes meet as the dancer found his groove and brought it to the piano. The drummer took it up, and, in a heartbeat, Glover hoofed it over to the drummer’s spot and they carried it on together.

As Walker noted, Glover and his young colleagues went through the whole vocabulary of tap steps, so how could there be anything new? But, there was—new to me, at least. Glover introduced a motif of crossing his ankles and doing tight turns, clockwise, counter-clockwise, and back again, his legs like two strands of taffy twisted around each other and turning—a knockout move.

But, when he danced loose-limbed, his legs swinging directly from the pelvis, I could imagine the dancing skeleton beneath the skin. Such amazing looseness and control. At 31, he keeps getting better with every concert.

In one heart-catching passage, Slyde, Glover and Walker danced an interplay, circling close, face to face, then swirling off each into their own space, then taking turns in the center. It was like tossing three stones into a pond and watching each make its own ripples, overlapping with the other two. There was so much going on, so many layers of connection, so much knowledge.

The concert was a privilege from start to finish. Glover dedicated the evening to Sali Ann Kriegsman, a tapper and former director of the Pillow who did so much to bring tap back to this historic stage.


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